The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) has proposed regulation of the sale of liquor at various stores instead of a ban.
In a statement today, the group said the regulation could be modelled after other countries such as Singapore which has a window period for its liquor sale.
This was in line with Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa's written reply in Parliament in July which stated that the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) was studying liquor licence issuing models in other countries such as Singapore which prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages between 10.30pm and 7am.
"Similarly, in our country, the sale of liquor in these outlets can be limited to say from 7am to 10pm but not a total ban imposed which will be unconstitutional," the group said.
DBKL had ruled that beginning October 2021, liquor sales at sundry and grocery shops, convenience stores, and medicine shops will be banned in the federal territories.
Several parties protested the ruling but Annuar stressed that the new guidelines were made after conducting surveys on guidelines used in other countries.
Worries grew after deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) Ahmad Marzuk Shaary (above) mentioned a possibility to expand the ban on liquor sales nationwide.
This prompted army veterans, namely Patriot president Mohamed Arshad Raji and former armed forces chief Hashim Mohd Ali, to oppose the ban and Marzuk's statement, while calling on the government to respect the rights of non-Muslims.
Elaborating, the group stated that while it supported the limiting of liquor sales, the total ban on liquor sales at some outlets would violate non-Muslim rights under Article 11.
"The ban on drink driving, limiting liquor sales to those above 18 years, limiting liquor sales to certain hours, or imposing other reasonable conditions are supported.
"But to impose a total ban on sundry shops, convenience stores, grocery shops, and Traditional Chinese Medicine halls beginning Oct 1, 2021, will be unconstitutional as it violates non-Muslim rights under Article 11.
"Some non-Muslim religion adherents including natives of Sabah and Sarawak take liquor during cultural and religious ceremonies," the group said.
It noted that there were a few thousand of such outlets in the country and the Covid-19 pandemic had hit these businesses hard.
"Thus, the total ban on (liquor) sale will make matters worse," it said.
The joint statement was issued in the name of MCCBCHST president Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), Malaysian Gurdwaras Council's Sardar Jagir Singh, Malaysia Hindu Sangam's RS Mohan Shan, Federation of Taoist Associations Malaysia's Dao Zhang Tan Hoe Chieow and the Venerable Sing Kan of the Malaysian Buddhist Association.