Amanah lawmaker slams DBKL's hard liquor sale ban as unconstitutional, says it violates freedom of religion

Mohd Hanipa Maidin

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KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 22): Sepang member of Parliament (MP) Mohd Hanipa Maidin has slammed the Kuala Lumpur City Hall's (DBKL) latest guidelines on the sale of hard liquor next year as unconstitutional, saying it goes against freedom of religion.

In a statement today, the Parti Amanah Negara lawmaker questioned the government's rationale that the guidelines are just aimed at regulating the sale of alcohol.

"With due respect, I find such a lame excuse, unduly canvassed by the government minister (Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa), is at best amusing and at worst preposterous," he said.

"Yes, regulating the sale of liquor may be constitutionally justified. For instance, the guidelines may stipulate certain conditions in respect of selling the alcohol. The guidelines, for example, may impose a restriction by disallowing the sale of liquor to any non-Muslims who are of tender years. Such a partial restriction may be constitutionally allowable as it is merely a form of regulating the sale of alcohol even to non-Muslims. The ultimate effect of such a restriction, in my view, would not render their right to buy or sell alcohol to be outrightly and completely vanished," added the former deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department (PMD) in charge of legal affairs.

He added that the new guidelines in their current form do more than regulate the sale of alcohol, and instead seek to impose a total ban on the sale of liquor at all sundry shops and convenience stores, which is an obvious infringement of the Federal Constitution.

"Such a total prohibition would definitely have a tremendous effect of rendering the exercise of non-Muslims' right to practise their own religion as mockery and illusory. Hence, it is unconstitutional. Period," he said.

He also said it was "unfortunate" that statements that advocate an outright ban of liquor sale at certain shops came from Kelantanese politicians.

"Are they really aware that even the learned and pious Muslims in Kelantan such as the late Tok Guru (Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat) did not even seek to issue any total ban of the sale of alcohol by and to non-Muslims?" he asked.

To recap, from Oct 1 next year, convenience stores, mini markets, grocery stores and Chinese medicine shops here will not be allowed to sell hard liquor.

Sales of pure or mixed liquor in traditional medicines are exempted from this ruling, while beer will still be allowed to be sold by these businesses from 7am to 9pm, but they must be placed separately from other drinks.

According to a Bernama report, Annuar — who is also Umno MP for Ketereh — said the guidelines were introduced to regulate the sale of alcohol following complaints from the public on the sale of illegal liquor and alcoholic drinks in small packets at sundry shops and mini markets.

He had also defended the guidelines by saying curbs on sales were also practised in other countries, including in Europe, and had nothing to do with racial or religious matters.

Meanwhile, Bernama also reported that Deputy Minister in the PMD in charge of religious affaris Ahmad Marzuk Shaary said the ban could be expanded to other states.

The PAS Pengkalan Chepa MP said the move has received positive feedback from civil society, including from both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Lam Jian Wyn