Parliament: Liquor laws make it tough for foreign workers to find places to drink

Foreign workers gather in twos and threes to drink beer in the quiet alleys of Geylang on a Sunday night on Jan 18, 2015. Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said
Foreign workers gather in twos and threes to drink beer in the quiet alleys of Geylang on a Sunday night on Jan 18, 2015. Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said on Friday that he supported the proposed liquor laws, which he admitted were met with strong responses - both for and against. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said on Friday that he supported the proposed liquor laws, which he admitted were met with strong responses - both for and against.

He believes the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill gets the balance right between personal freedoms and wanting peace and quiet at night.

Still, "we should also make sure that we do not make things difficult for people who drink responsibly. For example, a person is now required to get a liquor consumption permit to drink past 10.30pm at say, a BBQ at East Coast Park. He should be allowed to ask for that permit as part of the application for the BBQ pit itself. In other words, make it as simple and painless as possible, without involving multiple steps - perhaps just an additional box to tick in the online application process with no extra charge."

He also criticised the Bill for singling out foreign workers. Since foreign worker dormitories are considered public places, workers would have limited places to drink after 10.30pm.

"People... after 10.30pm, are free to drink in their homes. But that same consideration does not apply to foreign workers. The concern I believe is that since foreign workers can no longer drink in public, they will go back to their dormitories to drink. That may be so, but unless there is good evidence that this will cause problems - and I hope that the Minister will tell us what this evidence is - there is no reason to single them out."

limyihan@sph.com.sg