After backlash, Putrajaya now says breweries ‘not essential’ and must stop operating immediately

Ismail Sabri noted that all manufacturing sectors are to be closed during the total lockdown except for 12 categories allowed to operate, but said that alcoholic drinks are not considered as part of the beverages industry. — AFP pic
Ismail Sabri noted that all manufacturing sectors are to be closed during the total lockdown except for 12 categories allowed to operate, but said that alcoholic drinks are not considered as part of the beverages industry. — AFP pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — All factories producing alcohol in Malaysia must close immediately and cannot operate during the total lockdown, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said this evening.

Ismail Sabri noted that all manufacturing sectors are to be closed during the total lockdown except for 12 categories allowed to operate, but said that alcoholic drinks are not considered as essential products.

“Although the permission to operate is given to food and beverages-based factories, but it is only for essential needs only. Therefore, alcoholic beverages factories are not included in the category of essential needs.

“In line with that, the government today agrees for all alcoholic beverages factories throughout the country to be closed immediately,” he announced in a statement today.

Malaysia is under the first phase of the third movement control order (MCO 3.0) — otherwise known as total lockdown — from June 1 to June 14.

Ismail Sabri had on May 30 announced the list of businesses in the essential services category that can still operate during the total lockdown, including those related to food and beverages.

Miti said 95,142 companies in the country have received approval this afternoon to operate during the two week “total lockdown”.

Ismail Sabri’s statement came just hours after criticism by politicians from both ruling and Opposition parties.

In his tweet this morning, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim drew attention to

“alcohol factories allowed to open”. He also highlighted the suspension of Parliament and claimed that Malaysia’s middle-income groups were sidelined. 

Alluding to “U-turns” in government decisions, he claimed this showed the Perikatan Nasional administration is not serious in implementing a “total lockdown”.

At around noon, Parti Amanah Negara Youth vice-chief Kevin Shawn Gomez questioned the Ministry of International Trade and Industry’s (Miti) alleged approval letter under the Covid-19 Intelligent Management System (CIMS) 3.0 for Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Berhad to operate during the MCO period which starts from June 1. 

Gomez noted that Ismail Sabri previously only stated that the food and beverages industry falls under essential services and is allowed to operate during the total lockdown.

He then asked if the products by Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Berhad’s factory is essential for Malaysians. 

He also urged the government to review approvals allegedly given to “non-essential” industries to continue operating during the total lockdown.

 

PAS information chief Kamaruzaman Mohamad also urged Miti to explain the status of an approval letter for an unnamed alcoholic beverage factory to continue operating during the MCO.

Kamaruzaman had also urged Miti to immediately withdraw the approval if it was true, saying that alcohol is not listed in the category of “essential services”.

He claimed alcohol has no benefits but causes harm to all, blaming it for the decline in morals, domestic violence and fatal accidents.

This is not the first time that companies producing alcohol in Malaysia have been singled out by politicians and were subsequently forced to shut down during the movement control orders (MCO).

Politicians from ruling parties PAS and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia questioned why Heineken Malaysia Berhad was allowed to operate during the MCO.

On April 6, 2020, Bersatu youth had questioned why the company could operate throughout the MCO as it claimed that the alcoholic beverage firm’s business is haram or forbidden to Muslims, while Islamist party PAS’s information chief Kamaruzaman said that it would through its Cabinet representatives raise the issue to have the government reverse the decision to allow Heineken to operate during the MCO and had also alcohol is not essential during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hours later on April 6, 2020, Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa had confirmed that the government had during a Cabinet meeting the same day decided to cancel the permission given to Heineken as it was not in line with government policies.

Ismail Sabri had also on April 6, 2020 confirmed that a special Cabinet meeting chaired by the prime minister had decided that Miti would issue letters to immediately revoke the permissions given to Heineken’s and Carlsberg’s factories to operate during the MCO. Ismail Sabri had also noted that many had questioned on April 5, 2020 on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp on why the factories were allowed to open.

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