(lusi / sxc.hu) PAS‘s move to implement a blanket ban on the sale of alcohol in all Muslim-majority areas in Selangor has now given us an opportunity to draw up guidelines on alcohol sale. While their call for a ban might seem drastic, it must not be viewed from a moralistic or from only an Islamic perspective. This call for a ban is an opportunity for us to recognise the problems associated with alcohol abuse, which is acknowledged by all the world’s major religions.
There are major social and health-related problems associated with alcohol abuse among the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, among the Orang Asli and sections of the Indian Malaysian community in Peninsular Malaysia. There are so many silent sufferers, especially women and children, who are victims of alcoholics and other behavioural problems arising from alcohol consumption.
The Consumers Association of Penang has undertaken many studies on this matter and proven that there is a social-impact dimension involved as well. Hence, while PAS was speaking for the Muslim community, many of the social issues and abuses are among non-Muslim communities.
(vivekchugh / sxc.hu) Society has already accepted that certain types of human behaviour can affect oneself and others. In the case of smoking, the Health Ministry and other authorities have undertaken many measures to restrict where one can smoke in public places, and on cigarette company sponsorship and advertisement. These initiatives are done in the interest of the common good.
A total ban of alcohol has not been effective in the past. Nonetheless, there is still an urgent need for Malaysian society to discuss further the issues arising from the negative and abusive aspects of unrestricted sale and availability of alcohol.
Currently there are already some forms of restrictions on alcohol. For example, one cannot drink and drive; alcohol can only be sold in licensed shops; alcohol cannot be sold to underaged individuals; and there are restricted hours for places which sell and serve alcohol. There are laws to curtail the production and sale of illegal and unlicensed alcoholic products as well.
The problems we face have often been associated with weak enforcement by the local authorities. There must be some public outcry on this matter because of the negative impact of alcohol abuse.
Some restrictions on the places and locations where alcohol is sold are necessary. For example, not permitting the sale of alcohol in or near residential areas and schools might be necessary. This will include all kinds of residential areas.
(Matchstick / sxc.hu)Designated places where the sale and consumption of alcohol can take place should also be regulated by the local authority. For example, it might be healthy not consuming alcohol in a public park or even during a football game.
While this proposal is being advocated by PAS, my interest is as a sociologist from a social work background. I am a Christian by conviction and belief. Therefore, let us not discuss social issues and concerns from a perspective that divides us. Let’s find alliances and collaborations across religions.
Alcohol producers, promoters and retailers have not embarked on public education on the potential of alcohol addiction. The government has not done enough to address the resultant abusive behaviour and health-related problems. Currently, there are no counselling programmes and if there are any, they would be inadequate. There are also no rehabilitation services like for drug addiction.
I strongly advocate that alcohol producers and the related industry pay a levy from their annual sales for public education on alcohol abuse and addiction. They should also take greater responsibility for the rehabilitation of alcoholics. Some systematic intervention programmes are necessary to assist women and children who face abuse and violence. Federal and state agencies must address these concerns.
Maybe the Selangor government could take the lead in providing the guidelines necessary for healthy living and ensure that all responsible will put human lives before profits.
Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria is principle research fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Views expressed in this article are his own.