‘No more licensing requirements for alcohol sale, what else do you want?’ Dr Wee questions Guan Eng

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong is perplexed that DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng is still angry about the alcohol licensing issue despite an official directive by the Finance Ministry not to proceed with the proposed enforcement.

The Transport Minister pointed out that the Customs Department, in a circular dated Dec 9 (Thursday), stated that they were directed by the Finance Ministry in a Dec 8 letter to discontinue plans to enforce licensing on the sale of alcohol in restaurants and coffee shops.

“What do you want, Guan Eng?" Dr Wee questioned in a Facebook post.

“Now that the Customs Department has issued a letter stating they will reverse this decision and will not be proceeding with this requirement, you are still unhappy and accused me of lying because this decades old requirement was not outrightly cancelled,” added Dr Wee.

Dr Wee attached a copy of the Dec 9 Customs Department circular in his Facebook post, and asked Lim about his track record when he was the former finance minister under the former Pakatan administration for 22 months.

“When you were Finance Minister and in charge of the Customs Department, did you cancel this requirement?” questioned Dr Wee.

Earlier Friday (Dec 10), Lim accused Dr Wee of deceiving the public, claiming that Dr Wee had contradicted the Finance Ministry over the revocation of the Customs Department’s directive.

There was a minor confusion on Thursday when Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz denied that the government had revoked the proposal to introduce liquor licences to restaurants and coffee shops selling alcohol.

Tengku Zafrul told the Dewan Rakyat that the power to issue liquor licences or exempt premises from selling alcohol falls under the purview of the state government and Putrajaya has no plans to change any measures for now.

Tengku Zafrul was responding to DAP’s Damansara MP Tony Pua, who earlier asked him the rationale for the Customs Department’s recent regulation requiring coffee shops and restaurants to apply for liquor licences to sell alcohol to non-Muslims.

The matter was clarified after the Customs Department released its circular on Thursday evening, saying that they were directed by the Finance Ministry to discontinue plans to enforce the licensing requirement.

The circular was addressed to the Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL) Mayor, the DBKL excise licensing board chairman, the business development and licensing department director, the Shah Alam town council mayor, the Subang Jaya town council mayor and various other coffee shops.

According to a circular by the Customs Department dated Dec 9, the Finance Ministry had in a letter dated Dec 8 ordered the enforcement of liquor licensing to be discontinued.

“It is informed that the Finance Ministry, through a letter dated Dec 8, 2021, decided that the enforcement of licensing on the sale of intoxicating liquor served in restaurants and coffee shops need not be continued.

“Therefore, matters presented during a briefing previously will be cancelled,” said Customs Department assistant director-general Samson Sevanjanam.

Samson was believed to be referring to the briefing session in November when 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 triggered uproar.

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 effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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