Officials argue in Malaysia over shops selling alcoholic drinks during MCO, SE Asia News & Top Stories
KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysians have been confused with conflicting rules on whether sales of alcoholic beverages should cease as it is a ‘non-essential’ service amid the ongoing full lockdown , while cigarette sales could continue.
On Friday, June 4, Malaysia entered the fourth day of a strict two-week Movement Control Order (MCO) that shut down most businesses and social activities.
The total number of Covid-19 cases exceeded 600,000 cases on Friday, with Malaysia having the most cases in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and the Philippines.
Several cabinet ministers and key officials from several ministries attracted brickbats as some companies struggled to understand whether they could continue to open their outlets.
Deputy Minister of Home Trade and Consumer Affairs Rosol Wahid said on Friday (June 4) that alcohol sales were banned, sparking an outcry as Malaysians accused the government of being selective about what is “prohibited.” during the MCO.
The deputy minister at the same time said that cigarettes could still be sold, to meet the needs of people with “tobacco addiction”.
“We cannot stop its sale, otherwise there will be problems. Only smokers will understand. Without cigarettes, it will be a huge burden on them, ”he told The Vibes news site on Friday.
Malaysians have taken to social media to express their displeasure, as Twitter user @adrianang said: “Beer factories cannot operate during the lockdown. I understand. But now stores can no longer sell alcohol because it is not “essential” items? Since when does the authority decide which store can sell what it considers essential? You might as well ban cigarettes, ice cream, cheese, magazines and books.
Confusion followed criticism as the government initially allowed beer and liquor factories to operate, but shut them down following complaints from the public about why they were considered property and “essential” services.
Under health protocols issued by the National Security Council, only liquor stores and factories were prohibited from operating, not the sale of alcoholic beverages.
In the aftermath, Datuk Rosol later said that alcoholic beverages could be sold at premises such as convenience stores with licenses to sell alcohol during the MCO.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall, under the Federal Territories Department, issued a statement on Friday saying there was no general ban on the sale of alcohol in premises such as supermarkets and convenience stores under his authority.
“There is no such ban by Kuala Lumpur City Hall unless the locals selling them have not been licensed for such activities in the first place. Restaurants may be open, but since no dining is allowed, there should be no serving of alcohol.
“Pubs and karaoke bars are closed, so the issue of serving alcohol does not arise,” Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa said, quoted by The Star news site.
“As for supermarkets, they are allowed to open and can therefore sell alcohol if they are licensed to sell it. It’s very clear, “he added.