Don’t let black sheep spoil it all for responsible drinkers

Of late, there has been a series of criticisms on the ills of alcohol, led by the Federal Territories minister who, in turn, has similarly opened the floodgates for politicians and other government leaders to condemn citizens found guilty of drink driving.

The issue of drink driving is not new and neither is it on a massive scale in the country if one were to compare this to other ills like drug addiction, domestic violence, traffic accidents, mat rempits and other social problems like mugging, snatch thefts and burglaries.

In fact, if one were to study the statistics, I would not be surprised if drink driving is at the lower rung of the list.

Let’s not get paranoid over this issue. And let’s not use drink driving to score points for one’s own benefit.

The controversy started rather innocuously on the first day of the CMCO when the media carried pictures of the reopening of businesses including restaurants and pubs. The newly minted FT minister was annoyed because one of the pictures showed people drinking in the pubs, and wryly commented that one of his non-Malay friends complained to him that people were drinking.

May I ask what is wrong with drinking in a pub? Among the variety of beverages that restaurants serve are alcoholic drinks. And they have been doing this since they opened for business a long time ago, with proper licences, of course.

There is no need to get excitable or irritable over drinking by regular patrons of restaurants and pubs. The end of the lockdown, after two months of being confined to the house, is surely in order for some of us to go to our neighbourhood pub to enjoy a glass of beer.

This is also understandable because of the “confinement” feelings we have had to endure during the strict lockdown measures imposed by the government, which we accept willingly.

But drinking in a pub does not necessarily mean we go to the pub to drink and get drunk. Like in all cases, we do have the errant or delinquent person who gets carried away after some excessive drinking. But, thankfully, they are not many.

The fact remains, however, that the police are already armed with more than adequate laws to rein in or even arrest the perpetrators. The laws are in place and it is the duty of the police to execute them at all times. It is also noteworthy to point out that over the years, the enforcement of drink-drive rules can be better.

Or, perhaps, it could be because the number of offences had been manageable. I also note that breathalyser tests have not been conducted on a regular basis like they were before.

If I may respectfully add, nearly all of the consumers who drink in pubs and restaurants are non-Malays, whose culture and religion may not forbid the drinking of alcohol.

It is also not unusual to see people serving alcohol at funeral wakes. For some of them, the passing of a friend or relative is not necessarily a completely sorrowful event; rather, it can be an occasion to celebrate the life of a beloved friend or relative.

In some countries in Europe, there is the unwritten rule that drinking in public, even in the subway, is permissible so long as there is a respect for order. But, of course, their liberal values are different from our Asian cultures.

Like in so many sectors, there are always some black sheep who give a bad name to their respective communities. But let’s not use these few examples to punish the majority of us who genuinely love a glass of beer every now and then.

Let not few black sheep threaten the livelihood of an industry which annually pays taxes in billions of ringgit to the government coffers.

Malaysia is a country of great diversity and I am happy to say we have probably one of the more successful multiracial communities in the world today. We have different races and religions and it has always been a unique feature of Malaysians to respect one another.

Ronald Quay is from the Bangsar Baru business community.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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