Smoking ban: Advice Putrajaya not to rush it over Sarawak, Chong told

Dato Idris Buang

KUCHING, Dec 27:  Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) publicity chief Datuk Idris Buang said the way the federal government is implementing the blanket policy on banning smoking in public eateries is “paternalistic and coercive”.

He advised Sarawak Pakatan Harapan chief Chong Chieng Jen and the federal government to check with affected stakeholders before rushing into banning smoking in public eateries in Sarawak.

Idris said the Sarawak government was not “indifferent” to the implementation of the policy.  Rather, it was hoping to get feedback from affected stakeholders to find out the most effective way to implement it without hurting the businesses of affected stakeholders.

“Chong’s uproar over the state government’s ‘indifference’ on implementing a blanket smoking ban on restaurants and public eateries is quite amusing.

“The seeming lack of enthusiasm on the Sarawak government’s part is because the policy is totally not in line with the common tenets and principle of listening to the people’ views first, especially the stakeholders, before imposing any of such statutory restrictions,” said Idris in a statement today.

He said a  number of restaurants and coffee shops owners had since been publicly opposing such a ban as it would heavily affect their businesses.

“Some of them viewed the ban without making an in-depth study and taking into consideration the interests and views of all stakeholders, including owners of the affected premises, as overly paternalistic and coercive.”

Idris asked Chong and the federal government whether the rights of business owners had been taken into account before imposing the ban.

“The rights of business operators and their rights within their own business premises should also be respected.

“No matter what justification we give for the ban, we need to respect the rights, opinions and views of the people most affected, and they are the owners of the business premises themselves.

“They do have rights, and they must be heard,” opined Idris.

Idris said many questions had to be answered before the implementation of the policy. Therefore, he called on Chong and the federal government not to rush into implementing the policy.

“How bad could their business be affected? Will they suffer any loss of patronage? What choice do they have? Is there any option available for them to be exempted from this ban?”

“Can they have the alternative or option of putting a special smoking zone area quite separate from the rest of their outlet? Is it fair to penalise them for the actions of others who refuse to follow the ban within their area?”

“How much should they be responsible for their customers to see that the ban is upheld? What kind of vicarious liability are they prone to suffer? Will they be also made to face other third party liability by customers and there be any kind of defences available?”

“There are, therefore, many aspects to consider prior to making the ban mandatory. I would, therefore, urge Chong to advise the federal side not to rush the ban over Sarawak,” said Idris. — DayakDaily