Decision to withdraw liquor licence directive for coffee shops a great relief, says Lee Lam Thye

KUALA LUMPUR: The decision to withdraw the directive to enforce liquor licences for the retail sale of alcoholic beverages should be commended, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

The Malaysia Unity Foundation trustee said the decision was a great relief to coffee shop and restaurant operators nationwide who otherwise would have had to bear this additional burden soon, on top of the challenges already posed by the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic.

"The operators are indeed grateful to all those who had interceded on behalf of the Malaysia-Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors Association that was opposed to the new ruling.

"Thanks are also due to Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz for his timely and positive response to the appeal.

"On his instruction, the Finance Ministry had issued an official letter last month to instruct the Customs Department to cancel the implementation of making liquor licences compulsory for selling alcoholic drinks," he said in a statement on Wednesday (Dec 8).

Beer has been a mainstay of the traditional coffee shop operators throughout the nation for decades as well as a source for a measure of relaxation and social interaction for the regular patrons, he added.

"There is an old saying that goes ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. There was no reason to meddle with the rights of non-Muslims who imbibe during after-hours for relaxation and social interaction.

"In the absence of any cogent reasons for having considered such a measure, there has been some speculation as to why it was considered necessary.

"However, that is now all water under the bridge. It is hoped it will stay there and not resurface in the future," he said.

In the spirit of Keluarga Malaysia, Lee said the government should be reminded to be always sensitive to the rights of all Malaysians in a multiracial country.

"The government must also refrain from making any decision which sends the wrong signals to our multiracial population as well as foreigners," he said.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong had announced on Tuesday (Dec 7) that the directive to enforce liquor licences for the retail sale of alcoholic beverages had been axed.

Dr Wee said he had personally contacted the Finance Minister on the matter.

“He confirmed that the ministry had indeed cancelled the directive and promised to instruct the Customs Department to abide by this decision,” he said in an Instagram post.

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