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By Mariam Mokhtar
PERIKATAN Nasional and the many wannabe politicians among the clerics in PAS thought they could regulate the lives of non-Muslims with the ban on alcohol. They forgot about supply and demand. They should be prepared for more smuggling of alcohol and more importantly, the proliferation of illegal breweries.
The ban on alcohol would have serious repercussions on employment within the tourist trade, the hospitality industry, the entertainment industry, airlines, drink manufacturers and the ancillary trades which cater to the brewing companies, like duty-free outlets, supermarkets, Chinese medicine shops, warehouses, drivers and bottle manufacturers.
These companies would have paid their taxes, their permits and licence for selling alcohol.
Few days ago, the authorities arrested a Malaysian and two Myanmar nationals, in Putra Heights, Subang Jaya, Selangor for allegedly smuggling huge quantities of alcohol worth an estimated RM1.3 million.
The imported alcohol had been stored at a place of worship, to avoid detection, and sold to locals at a lower price than in the Klang Valley.
When PAS proposed a ban on alcohol last year, to curb drink-driving, did they imagine that it would have driven the trade underground?
A flourishing moonshine trade will deprive the Treasury of tax revenue. Perhaps, an increase in the sale of bootleg alcohol will cause more deaths than car accidents.
On May 26, 2020, the PAS information chief, Kamaruzaman Mohamad called for the suspension of the production and sale of alcoholic beverages until the issue of drink-driving has been resolved. This knee-jerk response will not educate the population about ‘drink-driving’ related deaths.
Did he care to investigate the deaths caused by drivers who were under the influence of drugs? Some of the deaths involving coaches were caused by drivers who took drugs to keep awake. The truck driver who caused the accident and death of the late DAP parliamentarian Karpal Singh was high on drugs.
The recent crane accident on March 3, was caused by a trailer driver whose urine tested positive for methamphetamines. In this incident, two people were killed and three others injured along the unfinished Suke highway bridge near the Desa Tasik apartment in KL.
So, where is the PAS and PN outcry about drug-taking among bus and lorry drivers?
Nobody condones drink-driving. Malaysians, including Malays, have been drinking and driving for decades.
We have sufficient laws to protect our road users, but they are poorly enforced. It is an open secret that some policemen only need to name a price to cover-up an infraction of the motoring laws. Then, why is there a renewed and unprecedented focus on drink-driving accidents?
Is this focus on alcohol the start of PAS’ subtle attempt to introduce other syariah laws into secular Malaysia?
On March 23, the Customs Department raided a factory, near Seremban, which had been making and bottling alcoholic beverages illegally. Several brands of fake booze were seized and eight workers fled when they saw, on their CCTVs, the Customs officers approaching their premises.
The illegal brewery was on a three-acre site and had been operating for at least two months. Investigations are continuing to find the syndicate masterminds.
The Customs director-general, Abdul Latif Abdul Kadir, said that the quantity of illegal hooch seized was estimated at 59,104 litres, and was worth RM344,644, with unpaid duties of RM1.952 million. The total seizure was worth RM3.12 million.
Brewery equipment, fermentation tanks, labelling and trademark printing machines as well as laboratory equipment worth RM1 million, which are believed to have been imported into Malaysia, were also seized.
Abdul Latif said that the syndicate operated from a warehouse in a remote area and the fake alcoholic products included a German brand. The beer was sold at below the actual market price.
PAS and PN must know about the American prohibition, which increased the production of moonshine. It is highly likely that there will be some deaths, caused by greedy illegal breweries using methanol to give them higher profits.
When will PAS and PN learn that banning alcohol is not going to stop drink-driving or moonshine production; but education, more advertisements on the dangers of drink-driving and stricter enforcement will help?
PAS should think of the revenue from alcohol sales. Also, this knee-jerk reaction, which affects the legitimate businesses that produce non-halal products, is another reason which causes foreign direct investors to shun Malaysia.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The New Sarawak.
This article first appeared in Malaysiakini