Beer license conundrum: The power lies with Putrajaya, not states; Guan Eng says

FINANCE Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz should not delegate powers to state governments when it comes to issuing license to sell beer in coffee shops and restaurants, said former finance minister Lim Guan Eng.

“This power is under the purview of the Finance Ministry (MoF), where the penalty for selling liquor without a license can be fined RM50,000 under the 1976 Excise Act, and not under state laws.

“And I urge the MoF to reinstate the postponement of such measures, not reversing it,” he said in a statement.

Two days ago, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong announced that the Government had revoked its decision to enforce liquor licenses in all restaurants and coffee shops to sell alcohol, which is supposed to be enforced next year.

“I have personally contacted Finance Minister, who is currently on a work trip to Singapore.

“He has confirmed that the MoF had indeed cancelled the above directives and (he) promised to instruct the customs department to abide by this decision,” the MCA president was reported saying.

In a twist, Tengku Zafrul today denied the Government had revoked the said measure and insisted that the power to license or exempt premises from selling alcoholic drinks remains with the states, adding Putrajaya has no plans to change any measures for now.

“There was some confusion that arose in the implementation and enforcement at the state level.

“As such, I have instructed the Customs Department to take immediate action to ensure this confusion does not arise again and the licensing for the sale of alcoholic drinks remains under the jurisdiction of the Licensing Board.

“Up till now, there have been no changes made to the authority (of the state),” Malaysiakini reported Tengku Zafrul as saying at the Dewan Rakyat.

Touching on the matter, Lim said that Tengku Zafrul’s decision to empower State Licensing Authority would only make matters worse as in the past, Customs Department and the MoF did not even recommend the requirement of a license.

Empowering far right groups

He added that coffee shops and restaurant associations have bemoaned that with the new rules, about 60% of the 15,000 restaurants and 80% of the 20,000 coffee shops across Malaysia would have to cease from selling beers.

“Operators think it’s not worth paying between RM840 and RM1,320 for a license as they hardly earn much profits from beer sales. Plus, non-Muslims will also lose the avenue to enjoy such beverage in a licensed shop.

“Another question here is, why is Putrajaya interfering in the customary lifestyle and normal business practises of non-Muslims that has been around since Merdeka?” the Bagan MP asked.

Lim added that by letting state governments decide on the matter, authorities influenced by PAS may get emboldened and stop issuing such licenses to outlets operated by non-Muslims.

“So far, only the Pakatan Harapan state governments have said that they will not disrupt the current practice and not require licensing of the sale of beer in restaurants and coffee shops.

“But who will fork out money for the additional costs and inconvenience faced by coffee shops and restaurants should some state governments impose the licensing requirement?” he queried. – Dec 9, 2021


Photo credit: Malaysian Foodie

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