Restricting sale of alcohol infringes upon constitutional rights of non-Muslims, says MCA

PETALING JAYA: Unreasonable directives on alcohol sale restrictions impinge on the constitutional freedoms and lifestyle choices of non-Muslims, says Datuk Chong Sin Woon.

The MCA secretary-general said the party strongly opposes the restrictions on the sale of alcoholic drinks imposed by the Customs Department on coffeeshops and restaurants.

"These directives not only impinge on the freedoms of non-Muslims to choose, but also increase the financial burden on coffeeshop and restaurant operators.

"This is counter-intuitive to the government's efforts to resuscitate our nation's economy.

"We urge the government to reconsider as these directives are not in line with the multiracial composition of our nation.

"We cannot allow our country's system of democracy, constitutional freedoms and moderation to increasingly turn conservative without taking into consideration (the rights) of others," he said in a statement on Monday (Dec 6).

Chong emphasised that MCA does not encourage people to consume alcohol, nor does it believe that drinking culture is part of the non-Muslim identity.

"However, non-Muslims have the constitutional right and freedom to choose whether to drink or not.

"The freedom for non-Muslims to choose their own lifestyles is guaranteed in our Federal Constitution.

"The government cannot hinder nor violate these constitutional freedoms of non-Muslims.

"The beliefs of another religion cannot and must not be coerced (upon) adherents of other faiths through official government policies and rulings," he said.

He quoted a media report on Dec 3 stating that the Perlis Customs Department stipulated that coffeeshops, hotels and restaurants are required to have a liquor licence from next year before customers are allowed to drink on the premises.

"According to the classification of the liquor licences, there is also a stipulation on the time liquor is allowed to be sold.

"Liquor sales are even restricted to only 27 litres or four cartons of beer per day.

"Additionally, on Dec 5, the media also reported that the Customs Department requires coffeeshops and restaurants nationwide to apply for liquor licences from Jan 1, also in accordance with the classification of liquor licences.

"Likewise, limits were placed on the times for beer sales.

"These measures to restrict alcohol sales not only indicate that government policies and regulations are veering towards religious conservatism, but they also erode the freedoms of non-Muslim businesses and consumers to sell, purchase and drink alcohol.

"They also affect businesses which have long been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and regulatory directives issued earlier.

"Besides increasing their operating costs, these policies are not conducive for the recovery of the food and beverage and related industries while they undermine the pace of our nation's economic recovery," he said.

Chong added that nothing meaningful would emerge from these alcohol sales restrictions.

"Muslims are prohibited from consuming alcohol. Therefore, whether alcohol sales restrictions are set by the Customs Department or Federal Territories Ministry, these curbs are in fact hindering freedom besides interfering with the customary lifestyle of non-Muslims," he noted.

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