Prison, fines await drinkers
Rendi A. Witular and Linda Yulisman
The Jakarta Post
A priority bill initiated by the House of Representatives has proposed banning all consumption of alcoholic beverages, with imprisonment of between three months and two years for anyone caught consuming alcohol.
The bill on the prohibition of alcoholic beverages, a copy of which has been obtained by The Jakarta Post, will put in place a ban on the sale, production, distribution and consumption of all beverages containing more than 1 percent alcohol.
A meeting of lawmakers in the House Legislation Body (Baleg) on Monday approved the progress of the bill's deliberation to the next stage where lawmakers are set to ensure clauses in the bill do not contravene existing laws.
'Under the bill, consuming alcoholic beverages could land a person in jail as it will be treated similarly to drug trafficking,' Baleg member Muhammad Arwani Thomafi of the National Development Party (PPP) told the Post.
Despite the fact that it has been initiated by the PPP and fellow Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Arwani insisted the bill was not merely about complying with religious norms.
'The health issue is equally important. The bill will enable the state to guarantee the health and safety of its citizens because the bill will not only target producers and distributors but also consumers,' he said.
According to the bill, a person under the influence of alcohol will face one to five years in jail for disturbing public order or for threatening the safety of others.
Under the explanation section, the bill argues that 58 percent of criminal activities are due to the influence of alcohol, although it cited no scientific studies to back up this claim.
Alcohol is also cited in the bill for causing memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and other types of brain ailments.
Despite having the world's largest Muslim population, alcoholic drinks have deep roots in Indonesian society; from the many traditional spirits and bootleg liquor to Bintang ' a beer brand globally synonymous with Indonesia.
The bill, however, includes a clause enabling exemptions for certain provinces and locations for tourism purposes.
'Five-star hotels, Bali and North Sulawesi might be examples of places to be exempted,' said Arwani.
While the House has yet to invite the government to discuss the bill, it is the first of among 37 priority bills set to be passed this year that has made progress in deliberations in Baleg so far.
The Indonesian Food and Beverage Association (Gapmmi) is already aware of the deliberation and has voiced concern as it says the impact would be enormous in terms of health issues.
'There will be a proliferation of bootleg liquor production. This is more alarming as there won't be any health and safety standards put in place. How can the government control that?' Gapmmi deputy chairman Sribugo Suratmo said.
In response to the bill, Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel claimed to have no knowledge of the deliberation.
'We should find out the thinking behind the bill,' he said. 'For example, I recently imposed a regulation banning the sale of alcoholic drinks in minimarkets in order to protect our younger generation. Alcohol can damage their morality. There are already signs they no longer respect their parents.'
In the past couple of months, attempts to limit the sale of alcoholic drinks have been on the rise despite the government's ambition to lure more foreign tourists and to reap greater income from alcoholic duties and excise.
The Trade Ministry regulation referred to by Rachmat will take effect on April 16, restricting the sale of drinks with an alcohol content of between 1 and 5 percent to supermarkets.
Rachmat argued that the negative impact of the ban on tourism would be limited. He has refused to exclude Bali from the regulation, but promised a solution for small vendors in tourist areas on the resort island.
'Malaysia and Singapore have put in place controls in the distribution of alcoholic drinks, and yet their foreign tourist arrivals are three times higher than ours,' he said.
'The [minimarket] ban will cause a decline in the sale of alcoholic drinks. But we expect companies that have invested here to be able to offset the drop by exporting their products.'
' Hans David Tampubolon also contributed to this story.
Excerpts from the bill
- Article 8
Certain areas and businesses will be exempt from the prohibition.
- Article 12
The police along with local government officials will have the authority to supervise the production and distribution of alcohol.
- Article 17
Any person producing or distributing alcoholic drinks will face two to 10 years in prison or a fine of between
Rp 200 million (US$15,500) and Rp 1 billion.
- Article 18
Any person consuming alcoholic drinks will face three months to two years in prison or a fine of between Rp
10 million and Rp 50 million.
- Article 19
Any person under the influence of alcohol will face one to five years in prison and fines of between Rp 20
million and Rp 100 million for disturbing public order and threatening the safety of others.
- Article 21
The law will fully take effect one year after its endorsement.
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