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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Editorial: Stop drinking?

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

| Fri, April 17, 2015 | 07:23 am

Simple solutions are appealing, a fact that politicians here and everywhere know well. As such, it has not only been moralists pushing for legal instruments to regulate behavior at the local and national levels.

The latest evidence is a bill that seeks to ban liquor, which has received backing from almost all political parties that control the House of Representatives. It is appealing to millions of citizens concerned over violent drunks and long-term excessive consumption of liquor.

Though we share the concerns, which, along with smoking, contribute to the ruin of poor families, we oppose the bill, which is driven not only by the Islamist political parties.

As a simple solution, the ban implies a willingness to treat citizens as children and the state as a nanny or father who knows best. This is contrasted with the diligent regulation of liquor sales, as in the West, where stores rigorously check IDs of potential customers.

Though early in the stages of the deliberation of the alcohol ban, we have seen it all before in the deliberation of the Pornography Law several years ago. Porn websites were blocked '€” under the authority of the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law '€” but nowadays access to such websites is not all that difficult to gain. The law on pornography aimed to protect women and children from pornography and trafficking, but the star victim was a boy-band singer making a video for his private use.

The bill on liquor contains the well-intended goal of protecting society from the harmful effects of inebriation; but is unrealistic, as is already seen in Bali, where a ministerial regulation limits the sale of liquor containing 1 to 5 percent alcohol to hypermarkets and supermarkets.

As Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel recently said, tourists can still buy alcohol at restaurants where alcohol will be better controlled, but will not be able to purchase alcohol from the small stores and beachside stalls scattered widely at tourist spots across the island.

Too many laws and regulations have been rushed with their noble aims being touted as a quick fix to social ills.

True, it may not make sense to the devout adherent that a Muslim-majority country is prone to drug abuse and the excessive consumption of liquor.

But rushing into a blanket ban would be repeating the same mistakes of refusing to address the need for restrictions, with the risk of liquor sales becoming illegal. The death of a number of tourists owing to adulterated drinks shows the need for the safe, legal sale of alcohol rather than its ban.

Arguments that we cannot merely restrict alcohol consumption because, unlike in the West, the authorities are easy to bribe, raises the need to constantly work to end corruption, from the lowest level of officials on up.

This is indeed a much harder process. But it is a much more worthy investment than giving a blank check to politicians to sign off on a simplistic way to win votes.

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