NOVEMBER 24 — As President of the Chiefs Circle (made up of retired armed forces chiefs) and former Chairman of Pernama (Malaysian Armed Forces Trading Corporation, running 85 retail stores nationwide at military camps catering to Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families), I strongly support the press statement on November 23 by Brig-General (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji, President of Persatuan PatriotKeba ngsaan, in opposing the ban on the sale of liquor from October next year by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) at sundry shops, grocery stores, convenience stores and Chinese medicine shops.
My position is simple and similar to that of Mohamad Arshad. While it is not my business to promote alcohol consumption, we must respect the rights of non-Muslims as we live in a multi-religious country and for many generations, there have been no problems on the sale of liquor from these outlets.
The Malaysian armed forces are also multiracial and consist of both Muslims and non-Muslims. The open purchase and drinking of liquor for non-Muslim officers and soldiers from the Pernama stores, have never been a problem.
In fact, it allows the senior officers to monitor the purchase and drinking behaviour of non-Muslim armed forces personnel under their watch.
There have been no local studies and evidence whatsoever to suggest that the sale of liquor from such outlets has been linked to the problem of drink driving or even health.
There are far more harmful things, such as cigarettes, that are being sold from these outlets and there must be no double standards involved in coming out with such a policy to curb the sale of liquor. Furthermore, the last thing that our economy needs in this or the post pandemic crisis, is further curbs on legitimate business activities.
What is even more alarming is that Ahmad Marzuk Shaary (of PAS), the Deputy Minister in Prime Minister Department (Religious Affairs), has stated on November 21 that the ban may be extended to other states.
I would just like to remind ministerial newbies not to be blindly overzealous in enforcing their religious beliefs on Malaysian of other faiths. That in itself is against the fundamental tenets of Islam which commands Muslims in authority to protect the rights and liberties of non-Muslims under their care.
I would like to call upon the authorities concerned to rescind this liquor ban. Otherwise, it may undermine the spirit of our Rukun Negara, national unity and the cultural harmony and diversity that we have enjoyed between Muslims and non-Muslims.
* General (Rtd) Tan Sri Hashim Mohd Ali is a former Chief of Malaysian Defence Forces.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer(s) or organisation(s) and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.