PAS has poor understanding of complexity

SINCE the decision by Kuala Lumpur City Hall to prohibit the sale of liquor at all convenience stores, grocery stores, and Chinese medicine halls, and the PAS-led Kedah government’s decision to ban the operation of all gaming shops and curb the sale of alcohol in the rural parts of the state, there has been concern among non-Muslims that their rights and access to these activities have been infringed, besides subjecting them to moral policing.

Gaming and consumption of liquor have been projected as a battle between Muslims and non-Muslims.

PAS leaders, with their self-righteous attitude, have imposed their argument on the basis of religion and protecting the rights of the Malay-Muslim majority, while non-Muslims feel this is an orchestrated move to enhance Islamic hegemony in the Malaysian political and social landscape.

The truth missing in this debate is that not all non-Muslims favour gaming or drinking alcohol, while others do so in moderation without the sin of addiction.

Gaming and alcohol are not the vices PAS tries to project, but an activity that can moderated or it could also result in an addiction.

For example, on those days when you sit in places like food stalls, there will be people selling lottery tickets.

People who buy these tickets try their luck, but that does not mean they will become addicted to gambling. Moderate alcohol consumption does not make one addicted.

There are good, loving and helpful people who buy lottery tickets and drink moderately.

If you look at addiction per se, you could ask why PAS does not speak about banning cigarettes, since they are also harmful to health, causing medical conditions that burdens families.

While it true that the addiction to alcohol and gambling has brought misery to certain families, it is vital that issue of this nature is addressed through inclusive discussions and building of consensus with non-Muslims on the harm of alcohol being sold in certain areas where there are cases of addictions.

This should be projected through statistical scientific findings, instead of addressing an issue purely from dominant religious eye that could be construed as exclusive and made with ulterior motives.

It is time that Malaysians built a consensus on issues related to gaming and alcohol, instead of one political party imposing its beliefs on others, which would certainly be rejected because it is based on deep-rooted, self-righteous, ethno-religious identity politics. TMI

Moral policing and PAS’s economics

THE Timah controversy has just settled, a storm in a teacup or, more aptly, a whisky glass when Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor instructed Kedah’s 10 local councils to stop renewing business licences for 4D shops.

This move is in line with PAS’s go-to politics of moral policing, or rather its selective implementation.

Let us say there are 20 Sports Toto outlets in Kedah and about the same number for its competitors, Magnum and Da Ma Cai. That is 60 SMEs that would close.

Assuming just four employees each, that’s 240 more unemployed people, not counting the business owners, part timers like cleaners and contractors, stalls and food vendors that spring up outside these outlets to peddle their wares.

The pragmatic thing to do would be to regulate its activities, limiting the number of draws or its operating hours. Closing on Fridays, for instance, out of respect for the Muslim day of prayer, or during Ramadan fasting hours.

In this extremely challenging economic climate, a little pragmatism goes a long way, but PAS has never been one for pragmatic policies, or even consistency.

In fact, some of their actions are downright contradictory.

PAS is still a member of the ruling coalition that still allows Genting Highlands and other smaller gambling facilities in private clubs to operate, and which  increased the number of lotteries’ “special draws” annually, from eight to 22.

Alcohol sales restrictions would also affect the international travel bubble to Langkawi.

After sightseeing, what do the authorities expect tourists, especially those from Western countries, to do in the evenings? Read a book in their hotel room?

There’s also the question of revenue. Sin tax contributes significantly to our national coffers.

When it becomes overtly over-regulated, punters and drinkers alike turn to more illicit means to fulfil their vices.

A 2020 Straits Times report cited RM1 billion loss of revenue annually to illegal number forecast betting, not including sports and other forms of betting.

Making it illegal would only divert punters to turn to gambling syndicates to get their fix, rendering the so-called positive social effect useless.

Instead of PAS touting it as just a religious restriction, and often overstepping its bounds in saying to act on behalf of other religions as well, the party could use a more balanced and moderate approach to achieving the same goal, instead of being combative and less logical.

It could channel the tax more responsibly. Even if used separately from the consolidated fund, it can be used for non-Muslim affairs.

In Singapore for example, gambling isn’t only regulated by the state, it is run by a state government agency.

A sum of S$1.8 billion (RM5.53 billion) is channelled back to the government in taxes in 2020 alone, not including the hundreds of millions channelled by the Tote Board to charity, arts, education and the like.

Singapore imposed a levy on locals gambling in their casino of S$50 per entry, and this alone generated S$177 million for the government last year.

Similarly, local companies too, perform heavy corporate social responsibility, most notably to vernacular schools. These take the burden off the government that is already hard pressed for funds to equip schools competitively.

PAS’s push for a religious agenda is well within its rights and up its political alley, but it should consider the economic repercussions first, fill them, and then move on with its agenda.

It should also remember that it actually lost the last federal elections and, with 18 MPs, is the smallest bloc within the Malay-Muslim demographic, meaning more Muslims voted for a moderate stance and the “liberal” DAP, which has more than twice PAS’s seats in Parliament.

Even in Kedah, it was equally matched and lost 60% of contested seats.

With taking on Umno and PH, PAS would want to preserve every advantage instead of alienating non-Muslims even more.  TMI