Sale of non-essential items: Deputy minister says ok for cigarettes to be sold as it is ‘essential to cigarette addicts’ but maintains ban on alcohol

Bottles of alcohol at TMC Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur June 4, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Bottles of alcohol at TMC Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur June 4, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 4 — Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Rosol Wahid today said that the sale of cigarettes can still continue despite it not being listed as an essential item, as it is “essential to cigarette addicts”.

Rosol confirmed with online news portal The Vibes that the sale of alcoholic drinks at any premises is prohibited.

 “This is because liquor is categorised as a non-essential item by the National Security Council (NSC),” he was quoted saying.

However, he reportedly said that cigarettes can be sold during this total lockdown period, to cater to those with smoking addiction.

“Although they are non-essential under (the SOPs from the) NSC, they are still ‘essential’ to cigarette addicts.

“We can’t stop its sale, otherwise there will be problems. Only smokers will understand. Without cigarettes, it will be a huge burden for them,” he said.

On the sale of alcohol Rosol said: “Yes, they can’t be sold throughout this movement control order (MCO) period. We are just following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) provided by the NSC. The government has given the order, so we have to abide by it.”

Rosol further added that said the rule similarly applies to all other non-essential items, which also cannot be sold at any outlets.

Earlier today, police said that stores solely selling liquor may not operate in the two-week total lockdown period, as alcoholic drinks were not an essential item under the prescribed standard operating procedures, a senior police official said.

Commenting on viral posts alleging that police ordered a food and drinks outlet here to close despite it possessing an authorisation letter from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti), Brickfields police chief ACP Annuar Omar said this was not the case.

“The result of an inspection at the store showed that it purely sold hard liquor, which is not considered an essential item.

“The police then took action by advising and directing that the premises be shut. Consequently, the premise owner obeyed and took action as directed,” Annuar had said.

Yesterday, posts emerged online to allege that the police ordered a supermarket in Bangsar to close because it sold alcohol.

However, the images accompanying the posts appeared to show the adjoining liquor store.

One photograph showed a makeshift note pasted on a drinks chiller, which said: “Sorry not available to sell beer by government SOP”.

The latest SOPs from the NSC only includes stores selling hard liquor in the “negative list” of activities expressly prohibited.

Malay Mail is attempting to clarify with the authorities if the sale of all alcohol including beer is prohibited during the “total lockdown” lasting until June 14.

The confusion could also be based on the government’s decision to initially allow beer factories to continue operating, before reversing this on Tuesday when saying that alcoholic drinks were not considered essential items.

Early this morning, The Vibes reported both the Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani expressing surprise at the actions of the Brickfields police team for ordering the shutdown of the Bangsar supermarket.

Ismail who is also the Senior Minister (Security Cluster) reportedly said: Premises that sell alcohol (closed)? Even the 7-Eleven that sells alcohol is (allowed to) open.”

Acryl meanwhile was quoted saying that he was unaware of the incident.

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