Malaysiakini NEWS

Scrap public drinking ban, Terengganu told

Published:  |  Modified:

(AFP) - The decision by PAS to ban public drinking in Terengganu came under fire today from both political allies and opponents.

The ban on drinking alcohol in public - including hotel bars - will be extended in stages starting next month throughout Terengganu, which is ruled by PAS.

"We urge PAS to drop its order," said Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP).

The DAP is linked to the Islamic party and two others in an opposition alliance.

Lim told AFP the move would have a negative impact on the alliance and create fears among its supporters.

He said PAS should not take unilateral action without first consulting its pact members.

"Any move to impose a total ban on drinking of alcohol in public places, including coffee shops where non-Muslims have been allowed up to now, would be regarded as the first step to change the ways of life of non-Muslims and insensitive to their feelings," Lim said in a later statement.

Separate checkouts

The ban on public drinking is part of moves to introduce an Islamic administration in Terengganu.

PAS banned gambling and curbed alcohol sales after winning control of the state government in November 1999 elections. It also reached agreement with supermarkets to provide separate checkouts for men and women.

Mokhtar Nong, city council chief in the state capital Kuala Terengganu, has said that from May 4 no one would be allowed to drink alcohol in public areas including restaurants, coffee shops and hotels.

He said the council would consider exemptions for Chinese weddings.

"Under the new ruling non-Muslims would only be allowed to drink alcohol behind closed doors in their homes," Mokhtar was quoted as saying.

Tourists may be deterred

Kamilia Ibrahim, a leading member of the women's wing of the ruling United Malays National Organisation, said Islam reminds followers not to encroach on the rights of others.

"If we are to live together, we should not impose a ban on what we don't like," she said.

Fears have been expressed that the ban, which is already in force in some areas, may deter tourists.

Adlin Masood, public relations manager with Primula ParkRoyal beach resort, said the hotel was notified some months ago of the ruling. Guests were only allowed to drink liquor in their rooms.

But she said the move would not deter tourists.

"In actual fact, foreign tourists in March were two percent higher compared to the same period last year."

However, Mohamad Zahid Mohamad Yusof, the hotel's assistant food and beverages manager, complained that income for his department had plunged.

"Our monthly revenue was about RM30,000 and now it is one-third only. We will not increase manpower if any staff resign."

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