Clear support for liquor control measures: Poll

AN OVERWHELMING majority of Singaporeans who responded to a public consultation exercise support imposing restrictions on the public consumption of alcohol, especially around residential areas after certain hours.

Nearly as many also back a proposal to shorten the hours during which retail shops can sell liquor.

These findings were released yesterday by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which plans to announce new liquor control measures in the first quarter of next year.

Singapore is among a handful of countries that do not have specific rules for when and where people can consume alcohol publicly. The ministry has been studying the issue since 2012.

In October last year, it launched the first phase of the consultation, which was followed by another three-month phase in June this year.

According to a report released yesterday, more than eight in 10 respondents agreed there should be restrictions on the public consumption of alcohol.

Of those who responded regarding the issue of sale hours, at least 76 per cent wanted shorter retail hours, especially for shops located within residential areas.

The exercise, which received more than 1,000 responses, also included focus group discussions involving stakeholders such as grassroots leaders, MPs, residents and businesses.

They agreed that a blanket ban on drinking alcohol in public would be too extreme and restrictive.

But a majority said that a partial ban on public consumption during certain hours should be imposed, with tighter restrictions in areas that see higher crime rates or disorderly incidents.

The Little India riot in December last year led to temporary restrictions on the sale of alcohol and consumption there, but these provisions will expire on March 31 next year.

The Straits Times spoke to MPs who noted that alcohol restrictions would help prevent disorderly behaviour.

MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Teo Ser Luck said: "When people drink at inappropriate times, especially in public places and to a level where they lose control, the risk of disorder and disamenities (such as littering) is so much higher...

"But we must strike a balance between putting in too many rules and regulations, and the needs of businesses and consumers." MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah noted: "In my area, only blocks near shops that sell alcohol 24 hours have problems.

"If residents have their sleep constantly affected, then we should limit the sale of alcohol during late hours. But if an area has no problem, then we don't have to restrict sales."

Heartlanders who spoke to The Straits Times yesterday agreed there is a need for some form of control.

Secretary Catherine Tan, 41, who lives in Chua Chu Kang, said: "Banning the sale of alcohol during late hours in residential areas is a good preventive measure. Banning drinking in public in preferably all residential areas is also a good idea because sometimes it creates a mess and residents can feel unsafe."

Consultancy service executive Joan Lim, 28, who lives in Bedok, noted: "Restrictions should be imposed only in those places where there are many cases of people drinking and getting rowdy... There aren't many such cases in the heartland."

The ministry said it will "balance the diverse interests of various stakeholders, including residents and businesses, to ensure that the regime is practical and enforceable, and easily understood, with clear rules".

This article was first published on Nov 8, 2014.
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