Kuala Lumpur - The Malaysian government will not impose a ban on 24-hour restaurants and eateries in residential and rural areas, Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday.
Responding to public displeasure over a proposal to shut down Indian Muslim restaurants and hawker centres after midnight, Datuk Seri Najib said there should not be any concern about operating hours.
"The existing operating hours are convenient and comfortable to many.
"If we restrict the operating hours, it will cause inconvenience to many people," he told reporters after attending a Ramadan function.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Shahidan Kassim last week said the ban would apply to eating places near residential estates and in rural areas.
He said this ban followed complaints that these 24-hour eating joints were the reason for the rise in "social ills" - a catch-all phrase used by the government to refer to anything from drug-taking to sex out of wedlock to skipping school.
The proposal attracted criticism from the public.
"To blame social ills on the operating hours of restaurants is too simplistic and illogical, just like how we don't close down a school just because disciplinary problems exist there," said Malaysian Chinese Association publicity bureau chairman Chai Kim Sen.
Penang Muslim League vice-president Shahul Hameed Syed Mohamed said social ills stemmed from the consumption of alcohol, which was not served at mamak shops but at bars and pubs.
Kapitan Keling Mosque Committee chairman Meera Mydin Mastan said the government's move might backfire as the closure of 24-hour mamak restaurants could drive people to search for alternatives.
"Youngsters might even turn to bars and pubs, especially during football season," he said.