Friday, August 7, 2009

Dari Malaysia Kini : Penjualan Alkohol perlukan Kawalan

The move by PAS to implement a blanket ban on the sale of alcohol in all Muslim-majority areas has now given us an opportunity to draw up guidelines on the sale of alcohol.

While their call on ban might seem drastic but this view must not be seen from a high moral ground and only from an Islamic perspective but an opportunity to recognize the problems associated with alcohol abuse which is recognized by all major religions of the world.

Currently there are already other forms of restrictions on alcohol such as one cannot drink and drive, alcohol can only be sold in licensed shops, alcohol cannot be sold to under-aged individuals, there are restricted hours for places which sell and serve alcohol.

There are laws to curtail the production and sale of illegal and unlicensed products.

The problem has often been associated with weak enforcement by local authority enforcement. There must be some public outcry on this matter as there are negative aspects of alcohol abuse which society has not adequately recognized.

There are major social and health relative problems to alcohol substance abuse among by natives of Sabah and Sarawak, among the Orang Asli and among sections of the Indian community in Peninsular Malaysia.

The Consumer Association of Penang has undertaken many studies on this matter and therefore the social impact dimensions should also be reviewed in this debate. While PAS was speaking for the Muslim community many of the social issues and abuses are among non Muslim communities.

Society has already accepted that certain types of human behaviour can affect oneself and others. In the case of smoking, the Ministry of Health and other authorities have undertaken many measures to restrict where one can smoke in public places, on the sponsorship and advertisement by cigarette companies.

These initiatives undertaken are done in the interest of the common good of society. While a total ban has not been effective in the past, where total abstinence was advocated, nonetheless there is an urgent need for Malaysian society to discuss this issue further from the negative and abusive aspects of unrestricted sale and availability of alcohol in our society.

Levy for public education

Some restrictions on the places and locations where alcohol is sold are necessary. For example not permitting sale of alcohol in or near residential areas and schools might be necessary. This will therefore include all kinds of residential areas.

Designated places where sales and consuming can take place should be regulated by local authority. For example it might be healthy not consuming alcohol in a public park or even during a football game.

While this theme is being advocated by PAS, my interest is as a sociologist from 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 but lets us find alliances and collaboration across religion

There are so many silent sufferers especially women and children who are victims of alcoholics and husbands who have a behaviour problem as a result of consuming alcohol.

Alcohol producers, promoters and retail people have not taken action in educating the general public on the potential substance addiction. Government has not done enough to address the abusive behaviour and health related problems.

Currently there are no counselling programmes and if any inadequate. There are no rehabilitation services like rehabilitation of drug addiction.

I strongly advocate that alcohol producers and this industry pay a levy from their annual sales for public education on alcohol abuse and addiction, at the same time take greater responsibility for 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.

May be 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.

DR DENISON JAYASOORIA is principle research fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Views expressed in this article are his own.

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