KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police on Wednesday (Oct 4) said the decision to not allow a planned beer festival in Kuala Lumpur was based on intelligence the event would be sabotaged - and not for any political or religious reason.
This comes amid criticism from the public and politicians that the move was in response to Islamist party PAS's objections to the event and a sign of creeping Islamisation in the Muslim-majority nation.
The Better Beer Festival had been held annually for the past five years, showcasing craft beers from independent breweries from 12 countries. Malaysian authorities scrapped the festival, which was due to take place on Oct 6 and Oct 7, on Sep 18 citing security concerns.
On Sep 21, police said they had not approved the event as they had received intel that militants were planning to sabotage it.
However, critics still thought this was an excuse, with the festival's organisers saying there had been no problems with security when they had organised the event in the past.
"Our objection to this event has nothing to do with religious sensitivities, racism or political pressure," the Inspector-General of Police Mohd Fuzi Harun said in a statement on Wednesday, responding to the backlash.
"The Royal Malaysia Police will not bow to pressure from any party who wants this security intel to be revealed, especially from those ignorant about the need to safeguard the secrecy of operations.
"The police also will not gamble with public safety or property due to pressure from interested parties."
Mohd Fuzi said the festival was not cancelled before as they had not received intelligence about possible threats of sabotage or militancy until this year.
OKTOBERFEST IN SPOTLIGHT
PAS, as well as the youth wing of opposition party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, has now also said that it does not want an Oktoberfest event planned in a Selangor mall to go ahead. The youth group said it had collected more than 10,000 signatures supporting its cancellation.
On Tuesday, BEBAS, a pro-secular organisation, submitted its own petition to the Petaling Jaya mayor in support of the festival.
“Our founding fathers clearly understood the importance of diversity and unity. If anyone does not wish to go for Oktoberfest, they are free to stay home", it said in a statement.
“Protecting personal freedoms means citizens should be free to make their own decisions about what events to attend or what food/drink to consume without state intervention."
Meanwhile, the Sarawak state government said it had no issue hosting Oktoberfest events as they would boost tourism to the state.
"Oktoberfest is a cultural festival and there will be lots of food being served, and you know the Germans, it comes with beer", said Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, reported The Star.
"Down here in Sarawak, it has always been promoted as Oktoberfest and not as a beer festival. It is Oktoberfest, I don't see any problem with it because it is a celebration of culture," he added.