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Media Statement by Lau Weng San in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday, 5th August 2009:

The real issue behind beer-ban

When Selangor PAS Commissioner, YB Dato' Dr. Hasan Ali suggested to the state government to ban the sales of alcoholic beverages in Muslim-majority area in Selangor and even went further to suggest to drop Ronnie Liu as Exco in charge of local government, a few issues pop-up in my mind.

First, how do we define "Muslim-majority" area? Are we going to base it on the percentage of Muslim voters in a Parliament or State seat? Are we going to base it instead on the percentage of Muslim residents in an area? If so, how do we define the boundary of the area as it can be a heavy task despite the fact that this can be done easily in urban areas like Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya and Shah Alam as these municipalities are divided into sections or sub-sections.

Also, we have to ask how big a percentage can we use to define an as "Muslim-majority” area? Can we base it on 51%, 66%, 70% or even 90%? Can we segregate the non-Muslims from the Muslims just like how the Nazis did in Germany when they segregated the Jews from the Germans community?

Second, do we understand the issue well? I have attended a few rounds of meeting with PAS Selangor leaders over the issue and it seems to me that PAS is concerned on the sales of alcoholic drinks (beers included) in 7-11 convenient stores. As you know, such convenient stores are opened 24-hour a day. This means one can easily buy beers from 7-11 outlets even after midnight. To the Muslims, this is worrying as young Muslims can easily buy and consume alcoholic beverages from 7-11 outlets and this leads to more social problems. Most of them buy alcoholic drinks around midnight.

Third, though beer is an alcoholic drink, it is not considered as "arak" or "minuman keras" legally speaking. Traders who want to sell "arak" or "minuman keras" has to apply a special license from the Land Office and other rules. Whereas for beer, it is basically a "free-for-all" item, meaning that anybody can sell it anywhere they like as there is no legal provision to restrict the sales of beer.

So we can summarize the problems as follow:

1. The problem lies with 7-11 outlets operating 24 hours a day and selling alcoholic drinks even after midnight.

2. The problem is further compounded if there are any 7-11 outlets operating in a Muslim-majority area. Most of the staffs employed at these outlets are young Muslims.

3. Due to lax enforcement, sales of alcoholic drinks to Muslim customers are still happening though 7-11 has implemented several in-house rules not allowing its counter staffs selling alcoholic drinks to Muslim customers.

4. There is a need to define "Muslim-majority area" and it seems that it is unlikely to be an easy task. Different people will have different interpretation.

I hope this article can help everybody to better understand the issue especially our friends from PAS as it is absolutely unnecessary to make open statement on this matter before resolving it problem through internal channel.

* Lau Weng San, Selangor DAP Secretary & DAP ADUN for Kampung Tunku



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