KOTA KINABALU: Calling for a total ban on alcohol consumption, especially during the Kaamatan and Gawai festivals, is unacceptable, says Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin.
He said the proposal by Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin to cancel licences for the sale of alcohol because of drink driving would affect the indigenous rights of the people of Sabah and Sarawak.
“Drink driving has been a long-standing problem, but the root of the problem lies with those who drink irresponsibly.
“A ban of the sale of alcohol, whether it be temporary or permanent, will not address the issue and lead to more problems, such black markets and sales of fake alcohol and, more importantly, would infringe on the cultural rights of Sabah and Sarawak’s indigenous people,” he said in a statement on Tuesday (June 2).
Instead of infringing on the rights of others in a multicultural country, Chan said the government should look at more equitable solutions.
He said he agreed with de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan’s suggestion for a heavier penalty for drunk drivers.
“Takiyuddin said non-Muslim are free to do this as long as they follow the relevant laws,” he said, urging Zuraida to discuss the solutions to the problem with Takiyiddin..
He said the previous Pakatan Harapan government was working to double the jail time for drunk drivers to the maximum of 20 years, with the minimum set at six years, as well as to lower the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rate from 80mg to 50mg.
“It was already recommended to permanently suspend the driving licence for those who caused death,” he added.
According to Chan, in Sabah and Sarawak, the consumption of alcoholic beverages, like lihing, tapai, and montoku, was part of the local culture especially during festive seasons such as Kaamatan and Gawai.
“The art of fermenting rice, coconut, or other plants to be made into wine is an intangible heritage recognised by the United Nations and has been passed down generations all over the world and not just in Sabah and Sarawak,” he added.
He said any move to “freeze” the issuance of alcohol licences would be a failure to consider the cultures of Borneo states.