In case you haven’t heard, this year’s Better Beer Festival – the biggest craft beer festival in Malaysia – has been cancelled. The festival organisers, MyBeer, who have run this event for five years without a hitch, were suddenly forced to pull the plug as DBKL rejected their application to hold the event in Publika Mall.
So what happened? Well, it all started when PAS (Malaysian Islamic Party) central committee member Dr Riduan Mohd Nor posted a scathing piece on PAS’s news website, Harakah Daily, condemning the festival. He said that as a Muslim country, Malaysia shouldn’t be holding festivals that promote alcohol or alcoholism and that even though the organisers had partnered with Uber to provide promo codes to encourage people not to drink and drive, there was no guarantee that the public at large would be safe from drunk people who would commit crime, rape and other unspeakable things. Dr Riduan also called out to Muslims in Malaysia to not just stand idly by as this ‘vice party’ is allowed to go on, saying that Kuala Lumpur could become Asia’s ‘vice centre’ if events like these are allowed to happen. The entire article (linked above) is in BM if you want to read it, but that’s the gist of it.
His strong words of condemnation led to DBKL rejecting the organiser’s application and consequently, the MyBeer were forced to cancel the entire event. In their press statement, MyBeer said that they were instructed to cancel the event due to licensing issues and that they were told the decision was made due to political in sensitivities.
On the flip side, Charles Santiago of DAP has come out to condemn the action of DBKL, saying that not allowing the festival to go on is ‘a clear sign of creeping Islamisation’. He also chastised PAS for not providing facts and statistics to back up their claims that the festival would lead to any negative or unwanted incidents.
Yesterday, MCA President Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said that he was informed at a Cabinet meeting that the decision to reject the permit for the event was made for security reasons as advised by the police. This is baffling though, considering that the festival has been held for the past five years without any incident whatsoever. In their latest press release, MyBeer noted that they have always had strict security protocols in place which included ID and security checks at entry points as well as having security personal and auxiliary police to ensure safety and security. So citing security reasons seems a little off. In that same statement, MyBeer said they would present their security protocols to DBKL once again in hopes that the event would be allowed to move forward as planned.
Some expats have relayed to us their surprise that the police cited security reasons behind the cancellation considering, again, that bigger festivals and event have been held without a hitch before. And if we’re talking about beer festivals specifically, other countries have no security problems when hosting massive beer festivals. Look at Oktoberfest in Germany (with millions of visitors) or the many beer festivals in Australia including the Perth Craft Beer Fest that had 15,000 people in attendance – no problems there. The police are not incapable of handling the expected 6,000 strong crowd at a festival in a mall. In fact, we know that they’re capable of handling much bigger crowds than that.
Some reports have also said that the police identified a militant threat to the party as the security reason. And over the weekend, many politicians on both sides of the aisle have come out to support this ban, including Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali who weighed in to say that the state should respect the rights of other races and religions to attend the beer festival but at the same time, the organisers of the festivals should comply with municipal council regulations.
The fact is, the event would likely be good for the economy as well as it would create jobs (ushers, security personnel, etc) and encourage attendees to spend some money at the stores in Publika. In the long run, if the festival keep going and makes a name for itself in the region, it would even be a big tourism draw. So it seems there are more legitimate pros than cons to keep the festival going.
We’ll have to wait and see. This is definitely not the end of the story yet, so we’ll update you as it develops.
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