The last thing that our economy needs in this or the post-pandemic crisis are further curbs on legitimate business activities, Hashim Mohd Ali writes.
As president of the Chiefs’ Circle (made up of retired armed forces chiefs) and former chairman of Pernama (the 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 23 November 2020 by retired Brigadier General Mohamed Arshad Raji, president of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan, in opposing the ban on the sale of liquor from October next year by Kuala Lumpur City Hall at sundry shops, grocery stores, convenience stores and Chinese medicine shops.
My position is simple and similar to that of retired Brigadier General 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 with 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 behavior 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 are further curbs on legitimate business activities.
What is even more alarming is that Pas’ Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister Department (Religious Affairs) has stated on 21 November 2020 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.
Retired General Tan Sri (Dr) Hashim Mohd Ali is the former Chief of the Defence Forces. He is also former executive chairman of the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games and council chairman of the Asian Heritage Museum Group