Singapore passes liquor control Bill


(Channel Newsasia) – Parliament on Friday (Jan 30) passed the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill. Under the new rules, alcohol cannot be consumed in public places between 10.30pm and 7am every day and take-away alcohol can only be sold up till 10.30pm.

Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran told Parliament there have been compelling reasons for the Home Affairs Ministry to take proactive steps in restricting the supply and consumption of alcohol.

Speaking to the House on the second reading of the Bill, Mr Iswaran said that in 2014, alcohol consumption was linked to 47 cases of rioting and 115 cases of serious hurt – which included stabbings.

“In other words, on average, there was one rioting incident and two cases of serious hurt each week that was liquor-related,” he said. “And the trend has been on the rise. The incidents occurred across the island, with 9 out of 10 occurring after 10.30pm.”

Mr Iswaran added that over the last three years, there was an average of 530 cases of people found to be drunk and incapable in public places. But he pointed out that these numbers do not take into account the many cases of noise and other disturbances arising from liquor consumption, which are often unreported.

He said the numbers also do not capture the inconveniences and sense of insecurity that residents in such areas have had to live with.

Mr Iswaran acknowledged that since the Bill was introduced, there have been calls to impose these restrictions on specific problem areas, rather than take a blanket approach. But he pointed out that this poses problems as potential trouble-makers could simply move to another area.

“Dividing up a typical area which has residential units, some common areas such as void decks, playgrounds and neighbourhood parks, and some F&B and commercial outlets, into multiple finely drawn liquor control zones would lead to confusion and make compliance and enforcement more difficult,” Mr Iswaran said.

The Bill also means police now have more powers to get people to dispose of their booze, issue orders for them to leave a place, as well as issue composition fines.

Turning to the Liquor Control Zones of Little India and Geylang, Mr Iswaran explained the need for these areas to face stricter restrictions and enhanced penalties.

Police assessment revealed that generally – 20 per cent of rioting cases took place in Little India and Geylang, as did close to 10 per cent of the serious hurt cases. In addition, almost half of the serious incidents in these two areas were linked to alcohol consumption – a number that is twice the national average.

Mr Iswaran added that in enforcing the new Bill, police will prioritise their resources, and focus on problem areas. He emphasised that the intent is not to penalise the mere possession of alcohol.

As such, the Bill has been guided by two principles. “The first is to make sure that we minimise the disamenities and threats to public order that would arise from public consumption of liquor,” Mr Iswaran said.