Singapore has passed a law that bans the buying and selling of alcohol, including the drinking of alcohol in public places, from 10:30 p.m. until 7 a.m.
The Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill, which was approved by the Parliament on January 30, 2015, will take effect in April. First-time offenders will receive a fine of up to S$1,000 (about US$800), while repeat violators will be detained for up to three months and a fine not exceeding S$2,000 (about US$1,600) can be imposed on them.
The government said the measure is necessary after receiving numerous complaints related to drunken behavior. But journalist Bertha Harian reminded the government that there is already a law (Miscellaneous Offences Act) that is supposed to deal with the problem. She asks: “Why wield a sledgehammer when you already have a specific weapon dealing with drunken behavior?”
For Ariffin Sha, who writes for the independent news website The Online Citizen, the law “is a potent manifestation of the Government’s Paternalistic top-down approach towards its citizens.” He adds:
We may have one of the best, if not the best, education systems in the world and the highest number of millionaires per capita in the world, but we still need our Government to play the role of a nanny.
Chan Joon Yee fears that small traders will suffer because of the new regulation:
I don’t sell alcohol, but it’s not difficult to imagine how such regulations will affect our poor, struggling shopkeepers. Switch to dried goods and vegetables? Are these folks serious? So how much rent are the shopkeepers paying? Can you survive selling vegetables and dried goods at such locations?
For those who want to have a picnic in the park or a party in a public place, they need to secure a permit if they want to offer alcohol during the event. Gavin Khoo, who writes for news website Coconuts Singapore, believes this can cause inconvenience to many people:
Picture this. Romantic night out with the one you love, sitting by the waterfront, maybe watching the fireworks on New Year’s Eve – it’s the perfect time to pop the question. Somehow, a bottle of effervescent grape juice just doesn’t cut it.
In response to critics, the government said that based on its own survey, four out of five (81 percent) people are supportive of the new alcohol restrictions. Audrey Kang is one of the Singaporeans who are in favor the law:
I can see the benefits of the law, even if I hate it on the sole basis of having to pay more for alcohol or finding alternative places to drink…It is the anti-social behavior that the Bill is seeking to curb.
Many believe that the measure was introduced in response to the “Little India” riot on December 2013 that involved foreign residents and the police. The government said that alcohol use was a contributory factor that led to the riot.
But it was the government which insisted that the riot was an isolated event and it should not be used to discriminate against foreigners. The government should heed its own appeal since the Liquor Control law seems to be discriminatory as it defined foreign-worker dormitories as a public space. It means that while Singaporeans can drink alcohol in their homes, foreign workers living in dormitories are banned from drinking, even during their non-working hours.
Worse, the law empowers the police to search any establishment or public space suspected of violating the provisions of the law. No wonder some Singaporeans are criticizing the law for being biased against the low-paid foreign workers.
But there is a way for Singaporeans to drink in public without being caught by the police. Alvinology gave this humorous advice:
Drink just outside your doorstep
Within your door is your private space right? If a policeman comes, step back inside. When they are gone, put one foot out and you are living life dangerous once again, illegally drinking in public.