PETALING JAYA: MCA has voiced its strong opposition to the restrictions on sale of alcoholic drinks imposed by the Customs Department on coffee shops and restaurants.

These directives do not only impinge on the freedoms of non-Muslims to choose, but also increase the financial burden on coffee shops and restaurant operators, its Secretary-General Datuk Chong Sin Woon pointed out today.

He said the move 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,” Chong said in a statement today.

“We cannot allow our country’s system of democracy, constitutional freedoms and moderation to increasingly turn conservative without taking into consideration of others.”

MCA does not encourage people to consume alcohol and neither do we believe that the drinking culture is part of the non-Muslim identity, he pointed out.

“However, non-Muslims have the Constitutional right and freedom to choose whether to drink or not,” he said.

“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 unto adherents of other faiths through official government policies and rulings.”

According to a media report on Dec 3, the Perlis Customs Department stipulated that coffee shops, hotels and restaurants are required to have a liquor licence from next year before customers are allowed to drink at their premises.

According to the classification of the liquor licences, there is also a stipulation on the times that liquor will be allowed to be sold. Liquor sales are even restricted to only 27 litres or 4 cartons of beer per day.

Additionally, on Dec 5, the media also reported that the Customs Department require coffee shops and restaurants nationwide to apply for liquor licences from 1 January next year, 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, Chong said.

“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 their related industries whilst they undermine the pace of our nation’s economic recovery.

“Moreover, Muslims are prohibited from consuming alcohol. Therefore, whether alcohol sales restrictions are set by the Customs Department or Ministry of Federal Territories, these curbs are in fact, hindering the freedom besides interfering with the customary lifestyle of non-Muslims. Nothing meaningful emerges from these alcohol sales restrictions,” he added.