Prison, Fines Await Drinkers

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.

n_81140_1Photo: AFP

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.

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