KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress (Kimma) says a proposal to limit eatery operating hours to 12 midnight is “nonsensical”.
Kimma president Syed Ibrahim Kader asked who would then serve the needs of students, football enthusiasts and others who ate late or who wanted a bite when hungry. On top of this, he claimed, the 24-hour outlets helped prevent khalwat.
Limiting the operating hours of restaurants and eateries is one of several measures in a new health policy the government plans to introduce next year, The New Straits Times (NST) reported.
Other measures, revealed by Health Minister S Subramaniam, include: taxing sweetened beverages, exempting sports equipment from import duties, exempting gym operators from paying corporate tax, and banning advertisements on food and drinks with high fat, salt and sugar content.
The NST quoted Syed Ibrahim as saying: “Yes, the ministry is putting efforts to fight the rise of non-communicable diseases. But limiting mamak restaurants’ operating hours to midnight will not resolve the problem.”
People, he said, could still cook at home. He suggested it would be better for the ministry of health to educate people to eat healthily.
Saying running a 24-hour restaurant was not easy, Syed Ibrahim added mamak outlets had evolved into a gathering place for many and had become very much a part of Malaysian life.
He said mamak outlets had become places for football enthusiasts to watch matches together and for university and college students to discuss assignments.
“These students, they hold their discussions and assignments there as most mamak outlets are equipped with wifi facility. If mamak outlets can only operate until midnight, where will the students go?” he asked.
The Malay Mail quoted him as saying: “For Muslim students, are they going to go to a friend’s house with boys and girls mingling around (in an enclosed space) unchaperoned?” This, he said, might lead to acts of khalwat (close proximity) and subsequently arrests by Islamic religious enforcement officers.
He said Malaysia’s attractiveness as a global food destination might suffer if the new policy were to be implemented.
“We (Malaysia) are known for our food throughout the world. Tourists come here and are amazed that food is available for 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Have they thought how this would impact the tourism industry?” he was quoted by The Malay Mail as asking.
There are about 12,000 Indian Muslim outlets nationwide with a total annual revenue of about RM10 billion.