Dr Sim, state govt urged not to mislead public over smoking ban

KUCHING, Jan 23: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen calls upon Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian and the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government to stop misleading the public into thinking that it is alright to defy the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s smoking ban in eateries in Sarawak so long as the Sarawak government does not endorse such a ban.

“Dr Sim has been arguing that Sarawak has autonomy over the operation of coffeeshops and thus federal regulations and laws cannot be applicable to coffeeshops in Sarawak unless with the consent of the state government. Such argument holds no water and is without any legal basis,” Chong said in a press statement here today.

Chong who is also Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs added that although the state government has autonomy over the operation of all coffeeshops and eateries in Sarawak, that autonomy does not nullify the operation and applicability of federal laws in these eateries.

“The power of the state government is to issue licences and to provide certain conditions in the licences of the eateries. Non-compliance of the conditions stated in the licences may result in the revocation of the licence.

“However, such power does not give anyone the right to do an act which is prohibited by other laws but not stated in the licences,” he said.

Giving an illustration, Chong said the Penal Code prohibits stealing.

“But it is not stated in the local authorities’ eatery licences that one is not allowed to steal in eatery premises. The fact that there is no prohibition in any eatery licence against stealing does not mean that a person can lawfully steal in an eatery.

“The prohibition against smoking at eateries is provided in the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2018 under the Food Act 1983,” he said.

Chong explained that the Food Act is applicable to all states in Malaysia.

“Therefore, regardless of whether the local authorities insert such a clause as a condition in the eatery’s licence, the ban/prohibition is still effective in Sarawak.

“I understand that Dr Sim and the GPS government is trying to project an image as the defender of Sarawak autonomy (though the fact remains that they have been the ones surrendering Sarawak’s autonomy over the past decades) and trying to capitalise on such sentiment.

“However, autonomy should not be used to oppose for the sake of opposing, especially to oppose something good for the public,” he said.

Secondly, Chong said, in their zeal to claim to be the defender of Sarawak’s autonomy, both Dr Sim and GPS should not resort to misleading the public and making claims reeking of fake autonomy.

“If the GPS government and Dr Sim truly believe that the smoking ban should not be applicable in Sarawak, the correct and lawful channel is to get the Minister of Health to notify by gazette that Sarawak be excluded from the said regulation.

“And until such exclusion is gazetted, the law still stands that smoking is prohibited at all eateries.
Making press statements and false interpretation of the law and creating public misperception of the
position of the law does not help the actual situation,” he said.

Chong added that ultimately, until such exclusion is formally gazetted, it all depends on whether the MOH wants to enforce the ban in Sarawak or otherwise.

“In the event a member of the public chooses to believe in Dr Sim’s claim and gets summoned by the MOH enforcement officer for smoking in the premises, is SUPP (Sarawak United Peoples’ Party), GPS government or Dr Sim prepared to defend him in court?,” asked Chong.

Meanwhile, at press time, Dr Sim could not be reached for comments. — DayakDaily