PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - The Malaysian government has been urged to rethink the proposal to ban eateries from operating beyond midnight.
In making the call, Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) publicity bureau chairman Chai Kim Sen said this was because there was no clear link between restaurant operating hours and social ills.
"To blame social ills on the operating hours of restaurants is too simplistic and illogical, just like how we don't close down a school just because disciplinary problems exist there," he said yesterday.
Datuk Chai said concerted efforts between the enforcement agencies and the police should be able to effectively curb social ills.
"MCA's stand, as always, is that the government should minimise its interference with the normal market mechanism," he said, adding that thriving businesses mean more income from taxes.
National Social Council member Lee Lam Thye said he would oppose the proposal at the council meeting next Tuesday.
"I urge the government to reconsider the proposal from all angles. My main concern is that the move will affect the livelihood of those running genuine businesses.
"It will also deny the public the opportunity to eat out, especially those who work until late at night," he said.
Tan Sri Lee said Malaysia had a unique eating culture and was a "makan heaven".
"We cannot compare ourselves with Western countries, where shops close early. We have our own culture and this is our way of life.
"To curb social ills, we must address the real cause. There is no need to clampdown on 24-hour eateries," he said.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association president N. Marimuthu said 24-hour restaurants here were one of the attractions for foreign tourists.
"Malaysians who work in the wee hours are able to buy breakfast at these outlets. The government should consider the convenience these shops offer," he said.
Mr Marimuthu said these eateries would also give more options for Muslims to have their sahur during Ramadan as some of them would still be open at about 4am.
Some Muslim non-governmental organisations have also called for the proposal to be reconsidered.
Iman Society president Mohamed Rabi P.N. Peer Mohd said there was no logic in the claim that late-night restaurants created social ills because families, children and tourists also frequented these places.
"Restricting the operating hours will be a blow to these 24-hour businesses. I hope the proposal can be reconsidered," he told reporters at the society's building in Chulia Street here yesterday.
Penang Muslim League vice-president Shahul Hameed Syed Mohamed said social ills stemmed from the consumption of alcohol, which was not served at mamak shops but at bars and pubs.
He said the ban in that case should include all franchise outlets, bars and clubs.
Kapitan Keling Mosque Committee chairman Meera Mydin Mastan said the move might backfire as the closure of 24-hour mamak centres would only drive the people to search for alternatives.
"Youngsters might even turn to bars and pubs, especially during football season," he said while calling for evidence to back up the claim that late night eateries were the reason for the rise in social ills.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Shahidan Kassim on Thursday had said the proposal to restrict operating hours to midnight for such outlets followed complaints that these places were the reason for the rise in social ills nationwide.
He had said it was not a blanket ban but would apply only to those in specific areas such as in housing and rural areas, and gave an assurance that franchise outlets such as McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken were not included.
He had said a note and proposal paper would be submitted to the National Social Council, led by the Deputy Prime Minister.
The proposed ban was for outlets in housing and rural areas.