Singapore

Feedback to preserve public order prompted liquor law, says Iswaran

Feedback to preserve public order prompted liquor law, says Iswaran
Members of Parliament highlighted the contrasting results in various polls when the curbs were proposed and asked if there was genuine public support. Photo: Ernest Chua
Bill not based on opinion polls but operational needs: Second Home Affairs Minister
Published: 4:12 AM, January 31, 2015
Updated: 7:03 AM, January 31, 2015

SINGAPORE — Debates over the level of support for a new law that restricts the sale and consumption of alcohol are moot, because the spur for it, said Second Home Affairs Minister S Iswaran, is to tamp down liquor-related disamenities and preserve public order, in response to feedback.

He was responding to Members of Parliament who highlighted the contrasting results in various polls when the curbs were proposed and asked if there was genuine public support for the measures.

“We did not base the proposed Bill and its specific measures on the basis of polls. It was on the basis of specific assessment of operational needs on the ground and the feedback we have gotten in order to achieve our objectives in reducing disamenities and preserving public order,” said Mr Iswaran.

The Ministry of Home Affairs’ public consultation exercises conducted before the proposed law was tabled had found high levels of support for restriction of public consumption of alcohol and take-away retail hours. And a REACH survey done from last Tuesday to Monday found 81 per cent of 1,145 respondents in support of the restrictions. The response online to the measures, however, has been largely negative. About 78 per cent of over 9,000 respondents in an online poll by The Straits Times also did not support the Bill.

During the debate on the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill yesterday, Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam questioned the rigour and extent of public consultations done, saying more data and “effective public consultation” was needed before the Bill was passed.

Moulmein-Kallang MP Denise Phua also pointed out that the Government could improve its public consultation mechanism as many are not aware when these exercises are conducted. While she suggested ways to improve outreach, such as putting up links on the Prime Minister’s Facebook page, Ms Phua also urged Singaporeans who feel strongly about the issues to try making their views known during public consultations, and not after.

While a country should not be run by referendum, consulting more people with different views would surface blind-spots that may be useful in formation of national policies, she added.

In response, Mr Iswaran said his ministry’s consultation was “concerted, inclusive and deliberate”, and had reached out to residents, businesses and dormitory operators. As for the REACH survey, statisticians have assured that a sample size of 1,145 is sufficient for statistically significant conclusions to be drawn, he said.

The media gave extensive coverage to two public consultation papers, Mr Iswaran added. “Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of citizens, active citizens, to step forward and give their views so that those views can be counted and taken into account when we formulate the policy,” he said.

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