PETALING JAYA: The Finance Ministry has directed the Customs Department to cancel its directive to enforce liquor licence requirements for the retail sale of alcoholic beverages, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (pic).
The Transport Minister, who is on an official visit in London, said he had spoken to Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz, who is currently in Singapore.
"He confirmed that the Finance Ministry had indeed cancelled the above directive and promised to instruct the Customs Department to abide by this decision," he said.
Dr Wee noted that he and Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Lim Ban Hong had immediately tackled this issue after Malaysia-Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors Association president Wong Teu Hoon approached them about it.
"In the middle of November, some restaurants and coffee shop owners in certain states were invited to attend briefings by the Customs Department and were instructed to apply for liquor licences, which caused an uproar.
"Three weeks ago, I spoke to Tengku Zafrul again on this matter. On Nov 23, the Finance Ministry issued an official letter to instruct the Customs Department to cancel the implementation of making liquor licences compulsory for selling alcoholic drinks.
"This is because the Finance Ministry had in 1977 authorised the mentris besar and chief ministers to handle this matter through the Licensing Board under their respective local government.
"The Customs Department is part of the Licensing Board of each state and has no power to instruct restaurants and coffeeshops to apply for liquor licences.
"Therefore, the Finance Ministry cancelled the circular issued on April 7 which requested business owners to apply for liquor licences from the Customs Department before Dec 31," he said.
He pointed out that Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country where non-Muslims have the right to drink alcohol, which should be respected.
It was reported that the Customs Department had required coffee shops and restaurants nationwide to apply for liquor licences starting next year.
This directive was met with criticism as it increased the financial burden on coffee shop and restaurant operators already suffering from the affects of the Covid-19 pandemic.