GEORGE TOWN, Nov 30 — The new guidelines by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) banning the sale of alcohol in sundry shops, convenience stores and Chinese medicine shops only serves to punish the owners of these small premises, said DAP’s P. Ramasamy.

The Penang deputy chief minister II said the new guidelines by DBKL, which come into effect on October 1 next year, clearly displayed a class bias that allowed large, well-capitalised establishments a non-restrictive atmosphere to sell alcohol, while small local traders are penalised.

“Why punish the petty traders and shopkeepers?” he asked in a statement issued today. 

Ramasamy was referring to DBKL’s new guidelines that restrict the sale of alcohol in shops located near schools, hospitals, places of worship and police stations. 

Shorter operating hours will also be imposed on bars, restaurants and pubs serving alcohol, while Chinese medicine shops selling medication with alcohol content will need to get special permits from the Health Ministry.

He said the new guidelines were not about alcohol but the constitutional rights of non-Muslims. 

“With the new guidelines imposed, there is growing fear that these might represent the slow but sure curbs on the constitutional rights of non-Muslims,” he said.

He said there were some political leaders from Amanah and non-governmental organisations who questioned the move.

He conceded that there were also groups like the Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) and Federal Territory MIC who welcomed the move as a way to resolve social problems and reduce accidents due to alcohol consumption.

“The points raised by CAP, MIC and others might be valid in some aspects, but then these organisations do not examine the reasons why the new guidelines were introduced, whether there is a political motive and whether the restriction and control of alcohol consumption can reduce fatalities from car and motorcycle accidents,” he said.

He pointed out that a few high-profile accidents resulting in fatalities do not necessarily mean that drink driving causes the majority of all accidents in the country.

“It has been found that more than 60 per cent of motorcycle fatalities occur in rural areas, mainly resulting from not wearing helmets, without licences and not following rules,” he said. 

“More than two-third of all fatalities are from riding motorcycles. More than 89 per cent of the motorcycle fatalities consists of youth,” he said.

He said there is no conclusive evidence of the link between road fatalities and drinking driving but DBKL seemed all too eager to clamp down on the sale of alcohol by small businesses.

“Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa defended the guidelines as something universal and that Malaysia is not the only country that has introduced these but failed to mention in detail about the regulation of the sales of alcohol in other countries,” he said.

Ramasamy also claimed that there was a lack of consultation with the affected stakeholders, particularly the business and commercial groups, before the new guidelines were passed.

“The consultation was mainly with government agencies and a few members of civil society, organisations that uncritically went along with the views of the DBKL,” he said.

He pointed out that there were already existing rules that forbid the selling of alcohol to students and minors from sundry shops and convenience stores but there was a lack of enforcement.

“Failure in law enforcement cannot be used to punish the owners of the small premises,” he said.

Ramasamy said there was no need for the new guidelines other than “some ulterior political motive” by the government.

He claimed Annuar had come under pressure from PAS leaders to adopt pro-Islamic measures that will only stifle the rights of non-Muslims.

“It is without question that the constitutional rights of non-Muslims have been infringed and made a mockery under the new Malay-only government,” he said.

He claimed that there is a sinister PAS agenda behind the new measures.

“It might be the new guidelines on the sale of alcohol now, but what stops the DBKL under its overzealous minister to go for further measures to curb the rights of non-Muslims?” he asked.