Malaysian brewers, alcohol retailers and beer drinkers have had a stressful few weeks
First, there was conflict around whether the country’s three breweries were allowed to operate during the country’s latest lockdown (known locally as ‘Movement Control Order 3.0’).
Originally given an exemption by Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry, swift backlash by conservatives and Islamists – who partially compose the governing Perikatan Nasional coalition – forced them to close.
Carlsberg subsequently confirmed that it had halted operations at its brewery in Shah Alam, a city on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, since June 2. Heineken also complied with the government’s order, noting in a Bursa Malaysia filing there would be a “significant impact on the market in general as well as the company’s operations and business.”
Malaysia’s brewers are a frequent target of criticism by far-right groups and Islamist parties, despite the country’s multicultural and multireligious orientation.
A similar saga had unfolded last year during the country’s first lockdown, where temporary operating permission for Carlsberg & Heineken was first issued then revoked.
The second round of uproar emerged following an announcement by Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Rosol Wahid on June 4. He said alcohol sales would be banned, while cigarette sales would continue.
The announcement sparked an uproar as Malaysians, many of whom were frustrated with Mr Rosol’s logic that those with nicotine addictions should be allowed access to tobacco.
However, Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa and the Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL) contradicted their colleague Mr Rosol. Both Mr Musa and DBKL reiterated that convenience stores and liquor retailers would continue to sell alcohol if they had the correct licenses.
Mr Rosol subsequently apologised for causing confusion. The havoc caused by the conflicting statements was labelled by Singapore’s Straits Times as a “tussle”, while a Free Malaysia Today writer expressed frustration around the government’s “mutating rules”.
While alcohol sales are now clearly allowed, social media backlash against the government’s confused messaging around brewery and liquor retailing rules continues.