Exclusion zones could create problems

Exempting parks and beaches from the new alcohol restrictions can result in people flocking to these "oases of consumption" and creating potential public disorder, Second Home Affairs Minister S. Iswaran warned yesterday

"You must be prepared for the unintended consequences of such a move," he told MPs from both the People's Action Party (PAP) and Workers' Party (WP).

"If all the other areas around you have restrictions and then you have this free zone, I think the consequences can be quite undesirable," he said.

The MPs had asked for the rules to be relaxed or removed altogether for leisure spots such as public barbecue pits and East Coast Park.

PAP's Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC), in arguing his case, noted that places such as barbecue pits and beaches are further away from residential neighbourhoods.

WP's Nominated MP Yee Jenn Jong made a similar argument when calling for certain public spaces to be designated for drinking at all times. Citing Changi Beach Park as well as East Coast and West Coast parks, he said: "The people at the parks, even those who have been drinking, are generally well behaved (and) they are also far away from residences, so there is also no disturbance caused to households."

Even Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC), a staunch supporter of the new law, called for a light touch in policing East Coast Park and barbecue parties.

Agreeing, Mr Iswaran said enforcement at such recreational areas has to be calibrated.

"We need to make sure that we find the balance which allows people to have their fun in a legitimate way... and at the same time ensure the concerns in terms of public order and safety are preserved," he said.

But he warned against creating exemption zones, saying: "Inevitably, what you're going to have is, if there are restrictions in many areas and you have this oasis for consumption, I think human behaviour will sort of find a new level." He added: "I'd urge (Mr Yee) to give this careful thought before he advocates such a strategy."

This article was first published on January 31, 2015.
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