State Islamic Minister calls for end to judicial vigilantism

State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has called for the termination of illegal ‘street’ courts, following the inauguration last week of a ‘people’s court’ by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists.

“I call on everyone to stop illegal acts such as smearing the name of the state’s judiciary in the name of justice,” said Shaheem. “The Attorney General [Husnu Suood] has also declared that these actions are illegal.”

Shaheem said that judicial vigilantism would disrupt civil peace “without a doubt”.

“I call on the honorable parliamentarians who are involving themselves in these actions to stay away,” Shaheem said, “and I appeal to everyone to conduct their work within the boundaries of the law.”

Shaheem said that if there were any “unnecessary things” occurring inside the courts, the situation should be rectified “according to the laws.”

He also condemned an attempt to attack Speaker of the Parliament Abdulla Shahid last week during his weekly badminton game at Imaduddeen school.

“Recently we heard that some people tried to kidnap and threaten the Speaker of the Parliament – this is something that should not be done,” Shaheem suggested. “These are very low-grade act in terms of discipline.”


Adhaalath party calls on MPs not to misuse their powers

The Adhaalath Party has called on Majlis MPs not to misuse the powers given to them by the constitution and to fulfill their responsibilities to the nation and their religion.

”We call on the government ministries and institutions to conduct all their projects in the best interests of the country and in a way that will benefit the immediate and the long term future of the country,” said the Adhaalath Party in a press release. ”We call on the Police and Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) not to listen to door-knock of injustice and torture.”

The party said all its members would co-operate to establish peace and harmony in the country.

”We appeal to all the people to work in the best interests of the country and people and to help each other,” the press release said. ”While a government is established to serve the people, the Adhaalath party is very concerned about the challenges the government has to face today. These challenges are causing endless grief.”

The country has reached to a complete deadlock, said the leader of the party, Sheikh Hussein Rasheed. ”It is the responsibility of the three powers of the state to run the country,” he said, ”but they are in conflict with each other and obstructing each other’s duty.” He advised the three powers to co-operate with each other.

The Adhaalath party has recently met with the President Mohamed Nasheed after the entire cabinet resigned, and the party shared the concern of the government that the opposition controlled parliament does not cooperate with the elected government.

”The party will not participate in any activity that is not in conformity with the principles of the party,” it said in the press release.


“People should be free to pray according to any sect of Islam”, says Adhaalath president

The Islamic Ministry and the Adhaalath party have expressed concern over certain amendments proposed in the religious unity act by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

The Islamic Ministry on its website said that while the amendment bill was useful, it was concerned about an article stating that the Shafi sect should be enshrined as the basis of Islam in the Maldives.

The Islamic Ministry described the article as “unIslamic”, and that it was against the constitution of the Maldives.

Furthermore, the ministry called on parliament to gather more information and to cite that information when amending the proposed bill during the committee stage.

The ministry said that “many scholars” were concerned over the amendment proposed to make the Shafi sect the main basis of Islam in the Maldives.

Sheikh Hussein Rasheed, President of the Adhaalath Party, refuted the article which making the Shafi sect the official sect of the Maldives.

”People should have the freedom to pray according to any sect [of Islam] they wish,” said Sheikh Hussein. ”There are many people in the Maldives who follows different sects when worshiping.”

Sheikh Hussein said that although the bill was passed, ”nobody will follow it.”

”Until 1997, on the island where Dr Afrasheem comes from, they did not perform the Friday prayers because according to the Shafi sect there should be a minimum of 40 people in order to conduct them,” he said. ”So if it becomes a law to follow the Shafi sect, again we are going back to those days.”

He said that Dr Afrasheem’s comment in parliament that in Malaysia people followed the Shafi sect was “a big lie.”

”In Malaysia people perform prayers according other sects as well,” Sheikh Hussein said.

He said that in many other Islamic countries there were no laws that specified which sect to follow.

”Laws can’t force people to follow a specific sect – people should be rather trained to follow a specific sect,” he said. ”I strongly refuse that part of the amendment bill.”

On May 21, Dr Afrasheem Ali presented a bill to amend the religious unity act.

Dr Afrasheem said that social unity among Maldivians was weaker than it had been in the past.

”One reason for this [disruption] is issues of religion, particularly disputes over worship and [scholars] criticising each other,” said Dr Afrasheem.

He proposed that the Shafi sect be chosen as the basis of Islam in the Maldives.

”I selected the Shafi sect because it is the sect most friendly, most accepted and most widely followed sect in Islam,” he said.


“Bad effects” if Dhivehi and Islam made optional, warns State Islamic Minister

State Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has warned on the Adhaalath Party website that making Dhivehi and Islam optional subjects at A-Level would risk “bad effects” to the country.

Shaheem said that changing the subjects from compulsory to optional was one of the biggest disputes regarding the new developing school curriculum.

”In my view it would wiser to instead revise the school curriculum and keep Islam and Dhivehi as compulsory subjects,” said Shaheem.

He recommended that A-Level Islamic studies be improved through the inclusion of topics such as ‘human rights in Islam’, ‘freedom of expression in Islam’, and ‘the Quran and science.’

”It would prove to the students that Islam is a religion fit for all ages, and will lead students to understand how developed it is,” Shaheem said.

He said that changing Islam and Dhivehi to optional subjects was like ”breaking down a good habit attached to the country.”

He said the school curriculum should be designed in a way that would make Islam an interesting subject for students.

”We do not have to demolish mosques because people do not pray,” he said.

The controversial decision to make Dhivehi and Islam optional subjects for A-Level students has sparked a series of protests outside the home of Education Minister Dr Mustafa Luthfy.

Dr Luthfy recently said the decision was not finalised and was ”just a suggestion proposed by the Education ministry’s steering committee.”

The move led Independent MP Ibrahim Muthalib to push a no-confidence motion against the Education Minister over the decision, while the Adhaalath Party meanwhile warned that Dr Luthfy “has put the final nails in his political coffin.”


Education Minister has “put the final nails in his political coffin”, says Adhaalath

The religiously conservative Adhaalath Party has condemned a decision by the Education Ministry to make Dhivehi and Islam optional subjects for A-level students, sparking protests outside Minister Musthafa Luthfy’s home last night.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that one police officer was injured during last night’s demonstration.

”Somebody from the crowed punched a police officer in the mouth,” Shiyam said. ”He was taken to hospital last night but has now been discharged.”

The Adhaalath Party yesterday issued a press release ordering its branches to protest against the ”incumbent Education Minister’s decision to make Islam and Dhivehi optional subjects.”

”It appears that in his zeal to secularise the education of this Muslim nation, he has put the final nails in his political coffin,” the press release said.

The party claimed that Luthfy had told Adhaalath officials in a meeting that he would take the issue to cabinet or parliament before taking a decision.

”Mr Luthfy should have learned a lesson or two from the recent controversy created by the Youth Ministry regarding the venue of Dr Zakir’s lecture,” the party said, “or the controversy about selling alcohol in inhabited islands. But obviously our Education Minister is a slow learner.”

”One wonders what is wrong with these people. They seem to be obsessed with creating one controversy after another,” it added.

Last night a group of people gathered near the minister’s house at around 10:30pm. Riot police arrived and dispersed the crowd after almost an hour.

Luthfy told Minivan News that the controversial decision of making the Dhivehi and Islam subjects elective was not finalised.

”It was a suggestion proposed by the Ministry’s steering committee,” Luthfy said. “It is not even a decision that has been approved.”

Luthfy added that it was not the responsibility of a political party to decide which subjects should be compulsory.

”I accept the expression of opinion in a civilised way that respects the rights of others, others,” Luthfy said. ”In my house there are many people who have no connection with the matter at all, and it is not fair to disturb them.”

Deputy Education Minister Dr Abdulla Nazeer noted that last year 10,000 students sat for their O-level exams, but only 1500 continued with their A-levels. Many others had continued their education outside the formal system, he noted, where subjects were not compulsory, he explained.

The Ministry would ensure the Islam and Dhivehi subjects “are available at every school where students are willing to take the subjects,” Dr Nazeer said.

President of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Hussein Rasheed did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Zakir Naik venue “only for football”, says Youth Ministry

The Youth Ministry has denied the Islamic Ministry use of the Maafaanu football ground for the sermons of visiting Islamic scholar Zakir Naik.

Minister for Youth Hassan Latheef said that the ground was a football stadium which was used by many young people every day, ”so it is very difficult to give that land.”

Latheef said that if the ground was given for the sermon then “others” will also start requesting use of the venue.

”That land cannot be given to do anything other than football,” Latheef said. ”If you take a look, you can see people playing everywhere, in the middle, sides and outside also.”

Latheef said that the Youth Ministry was now speaking with the Islamic Ministry to see if they would like to have the ‘Alimas’ Carnival Stage instead.

”We spoke with the Municipality council and they said the carnival stage was possible,” Latheef said, ”but the Islamic ministry said that land was not large enough.”

He said the Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari had telephoned him while he was out of the country, ” and told me the Islamic Ministry was hosting a sermon by Zakir Naik and asked if the football ground was possible,” Latheef said. ”I said yes, let’s see whether it is possible.”

He said the Ministry has now received another request from a religious group requesting the Galolhu national stadium for a religious event.

State minister for Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said that the Youth Ministry had recently told him that the football ground was available, but now denied it.

”Later they said it was a land only for entertainment purposes,” Shaheem said.

He said the Islamic Ministry was now searching for another venue to host the event and would announce it very soon, but he noted that the carnival stage was not big enough for the expected turnout. The Islamic Ministry has previously claimed that Naik’s visit will be the biggest event ever hosted in the Maldives.

”There are many challenges that we face,” Shaheem said, ”from many people and in many ways. I want to tell everyone that by God’s will we will host the event – everyone be patient and don’t commit any violence,” he said.

The Adhaalath party meanwhile expressed anger over the issue on their English language website, noting that the Islamic Ministry “has spent a large amount of money to print posters mentioning the stadium grounds as the venue.”

“The decision of the Youth Ministry not to give the stadium grounds for holding the lecture event will only add to the piles of questions about this government’s loyalty to the religion of this nation,” the party said, in a recent post.

“The pretext given was that they cannot do without the ball for one whole week. The youth who play there may not like it. What about the thousands of Maldivians who want the event to be held in the most spacious and suitable ground available? Don’t their feelings count?”

“The irony is that the majority of the people who will be attending Dr Zakir’s lecture will be youth,” the party said.

“Such blatant acts of obstruction to Islamic activities will only help in further plummeting the popularity of this government. It would appear that this is a ‘tit for tat’ by the secular minded people in the establishment because the Islamic Ministry and many citizens of this country criticised the Akon concert.

“What these people do not realize is that the people of Maldives are watching. Everyday their actions are exposing them for what they are: men who don’t care about the wishes of the vast majority of Maldivians. They continually forget that this is a Muslim country. They have very little, if any, loyalty to Islam and the nation.”

President of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Hussain Rasheed told Minivan News that the land “should be given equally to everyone.”

”The Youth Ministry just don’t like it because it is religious event,” Sheikh Rasheed claimed.

Sheikh Rasheed said that there would also be youths attending the event.

”I just want to thank the youth ministry for raising this as an issue and campaigning like this,” he said. ”Before we were expecting 10,000 people for the event, but now we are expecting 20,000.”

Speaking in a press conference on decentralisation today, President Mohamed Nasheed said the government would endeavour to provide a venue for the event, “and there is no doubt about that.”

“There is freedom of expression in this country and people should be able to express their viewpoints within the basic boundries of our law, so we have to find a venue for them,” he said.


Maldives to resettle two Gitmo inmates

Two inmates of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention camp that houses terror suspects will be transferred to the Maldives for resettlement, President Mohamed Nasheed has announced.

Addressing growing opposition to the move in his weekly radio address, President Nasheed said the resettlement of the two former prisoners would not “change anything or cause any loss to the country.”

“On the contrary, it will be good for the country,” he said. “[The country] will get a good name, honour and prestige. We will be noted as people who help in whatever capacity we can to help solve others’ problems.”

He added that not helping when the opportunity presented itself was, in his view, was not in keeping with either the constitution, Islam or the Maldivian national character.

“There are more than 150,000 expatriates living in our country. We are benefiting from their work. There is no danger in two more people coming to the Maldives,” he said, stressing that the government would not violate any laws in the process of transferring the inmates.

The religiously conservative Adhaalath Party yesterday clarified its position on the matter, noting on its new English-language website that “if the two men in question are Muslims who have been detained unjustly, providing assistance to them from a Muslim country is not a problem on Islamic grounds.”

However, “if they are terrorists who have committed crimes against humanity, then it is not wise to give them sanctuary in Maldives,” the party said, expressing concern about the government’s “ambiguity” on the subject.

Nasheed meanwhile urged the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) not to make the issue a politically divisive one, calling on opposition parties to take up complaints with the government.

“We will clear up what the DRP wants to know,” he offered.

The president thanked the leader and deputy leader of the DRP as it was the opposition party’s responsibility to hold the government accountable and offered to hold discussions on the subject.

On Tuesday, DRP MP Ali Waheed filed a motion without notice at the parliamentary national security committee to investigate the government’s decision.

“While we don’t even have a proper jail and the society is drowning in gang violence and crime, the Maldivian government has reached the point where they are forming agreements with another country and creating a legal framework to bring in people from the jail that has the world’s most dangerous terrorists and citizens aren’t aware of what’s happening. The People’s Majlis elected by the Maldivian people aren’t aware of it,” Ali Waheed told press on Tuesday.

Not confidential

Nasheed further said the issue has not been kept confidential by the government.

The president referred to his radio address on December 11 when he signaled that Gitmo prisoners cleared off terrorism charges could be transferred to the Maldives.

“If a Muslim does not have a place to live in freedom, we will help in whatever way we can. We don’t want anyone to suffer any harm,” Nasheed had said. “We know that the Maldives, in helping just three people from Guantanamo Bay, does not mean that either the Maldives or the world would be free of inhumane treatment,” he said. “However this jail, Guantanamo jail, is very symbolic.”

He said most of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were innocent people caught up in the war in Afghanistan, and that offering assistance to other nations in whatever capacity was “a national duty.”

On Friday, the president said it was “very clear” to the government that the Muslims detained in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba were not terrorists.

A Maldivian citizen kept in Gitmo was released by the government, said Nasheed, and Maldives police have concluded that he was not a terrorist.

Meanwhile, Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed wrote on his blog last week that official correspondence showed the government was in the final stages of “resettling” prisoners.

The former legal reform minister wrote that diplomatic correspondence has been exchanged between the Maldivian government and the American Embassy in Colombo to agree upon guidelines for the release and monitoring of the former terror suspects.

He noted that following initial discussions between the two governments, the American embassy sent a three-page diplomatic notice to the Maldives Foreign Ministry in February.

According to the diplomatic note, once the Maldivian government presents written confirmation, it will be agreed that the government shall:

  1. Agree to resettle Gitmo prisoners escorted to the country by the US military
  2. Determine a date and time for arrival after discussions between the relevant officials
  3. If the Maldivian government wishes to relocate or transfer the prisoners to another country, it will be done only after discussions with the US government.
  4. Maintain correspondence on the process of resettlement.
  5. Conduct surveillance on the prisoners while they are in the country, including monitoring their phone calls, letters and other communications.
  6. Prevent them from leaving the country.
  7. Regularly meet them and see how they are settling.

On March 28, writes Nasheed, the foreign ministry asked for legal advice from the attorney general on instituting a legal mechanism for the transfer.

Nasheed also noted possible legal complications concerning the issuance of visas as the immigration laws specify that people ‘considered to’ belong to a terrorist organization or ‘believed to’ pose a danger to national security shall not be given visas.

While the parliamentary committee has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, Nasheed wrote that ministers would likely be summoned for questioning.

“If our beloved human rights-loving president so wishes, it would be much better for the country if he could implement even one recommendation of the Human Rights Commission,” he added.

DQP anger

Imad Solih, vice-president of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), had meanwhile announced the party’s intention to take the matter to court at last week’s “Red Notice” protest.

A statement on the party’s website claims that the President was not empowered to transfer “convicts such as those in Guantanamo by either the constitution or any law or regulation in the Maldives.”

“There is no reason that a small country like the Maldives with limited resources should accept such convicts when a country like America won’t accept them,” it continues.

“While any sense of security of person and property has been lost and people are being knifed in front of police officers, there is no doubt that bringing such serious criminals to the Maldives is only going to make expatriates working in the country as well as visiting tourists more unsettled.”

It adds that President Nasheed’s decision was going to turn the country “from a tourist paradise into a terrorist paradise.”

Moreover, the decision was motivated by the president’s “greed for a prize” as the government was “not making any effort” to repatriate the many Maldivians in foreign jails.

In addition to filing a case at court, the party will be submitting a bill to the next session of parliament on prohibiting the transfer of foreign convicts to the Maldives.

DQP will also communicate with the US State Department and the American embassy to “prevent this from happening”, the party said.

“The president was elected by the Maldivian people to fulfill duties specified in the constitution and the laws of the country,” it concludes, “Under no circumstances does the president have the power to violate the law to further his self-interest.”


NGO coalition joins forces with Adhaalath Party in protest against new alcohol regulations

The Adhaalath Party has held a joint press conference with a coalition of NGOs against the sale or use of alcohol on inhabited islands.

State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, speaking on behalf of the Adhaalath Party, said the message for the government was that ”the consumption and sale of alcohol in a place where Muslims live is unacceptable”, and that the protest would continue until the president invalidated the new regulation.

He suggested that everyone taking part in the protest, which will start at the artificial beach following Asru prayers, should dress in white.

”We will not be violent and we will not call for the resignation of anybody,” he said.

Sheik Adam Naseem said the Prophet (PBUH) had advised all Muslims to stay away from alcohol as it was ”the mother of all the sins”, and said the new regulations made afraid that the country’s teenagers would be led down the wrong path.

The Vice President of Islamic NGO Jamiyyath-al-Salaf, Hassan Moosa Fikree, called on “all the people who love Islam” to take part in the protest.

He said the government had given “a deaf ear” to the organisation’s words and had not responded to any of their letters.

”We cannot be stopped until we achieve what we want,” he said. “In Islam [alcohol] is haram.”

He questioned why the government was trying to “find a loophole” to allow the sale of alcohol on inhabited islands. “Everybody is against it; each and every person,” he said.

Fikree distinguished between inhabited islands and resorts.

“There’s definitely a distinction because resort have regulations,” he said. “Civilians can’t visit resorts regularly any time they want, and there are special rules such as areas of resorts that Maldivians can’t visit. There is a big difference between inhabited islands and resort islands because resorts have regulations and these resorts are especially designed and invented for tourism.”

Permanent Secretary for the Islamic Ministry Mohammed Didi said that while there might “technically” be a problem with resorts profiting from the sale of alcohol, the ministry was not saying anything about the resort businesses.

“For the last 30 years the Maldives has sold alcohol in resort islands. The ministry is not saying anything about the resort businesses, only inhabited islands and the new regulations,” he said.


Liquor licenses spark protests across Male

A group of NGOs gathered outside the residence of Economic Minister Mohamed Rasheed last night for publishing regulations permitting the licensed sale of alcohol on inhabited islands.

The protesters called on the minister to withdraw the new regulations, which allow hotels with over 100 beds to sell alcohol and pork to foreigners amid tight security. Newspaper Haveeru reported that some elements of the crowd even called for the minister’s “execution”, calling him “an infidel”.

Police media official Sergeant Athifa Hassan said police received information about the protest around 11:00pm, and immediately attended the scene.

”It was a very peaceful protest and nobody was injured,” she said, adding that the protesters went home at 1:00am.

A second protest was sparked outside the Iskandhar Koshi (police base) after reports that police had discovered 168 bottles of alcohol in a car belonging to Maldivian Democratic Party MP MDP’s Parliamentary Group leader ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, who is currently in Singapore.

Sergeant Abdul Muhsin from the Maldives Police Service said the protesters gathered in front of Iskandhar Koshi around 10:30pm and were dispersed at 2:30am, reportedly with tear gas.

Muhsin said the protest was “not very violent” but ”three police were injured and five men were arrested.”


Political parties including the Adhaalath Party, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Peoples Alliances (PA) and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) strongly condemned the regulation.

The Adhaalath Party has indicated its intention to host a protest on Friday afternoon, calling on the president to invalidate the regulation “and apologise to the people.”

Vice president of the Tourism Employment Association of Maldives (TEAM) Mauroof Zakir said more than 80 NGOs were present at the protest.

”We called on the resignation of the Minister,” Mauroof said, adding that ”nobody called for his execution.”

He claimed more than 1000 members took part in the protest, the first in a series of planned events.

”We will not say what kind of events and when we will start,” he said.

Spokesperson of the Adhaalath party and State minister for the Islamic Ministry Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said the party would not allow alcohol to be consumed and sold on inhabited islands.

Shaheem said he regretted that the government had not discussed the issue with the Islamic Ministry.

”We invite all political parties and all people against the new regulation to take part in the protest [on Friday] so their voices are heard by the government,” he said.

The use and sale of alcohol was not permitted under the tenets of Islam, he said, ”and nobody under the sky can allow it.”

Vice President of the DRP Umar Naseer said he “knew this would be happen” and ”I am not surprised.”

Naseer claimed the government was trying to promote alcohol in the country “and make everyone drink it.”

”This government consists of alcoholics,” he claimed, accusing President Mohamed Nasheed of “building a bar inside Muleeage three months after he came to presidency.”

”I bet on that,” he said. ”One day let’s go inside Muleeage with journalists to check.”

Secretary General of the PA Ahmed Shareef said the party would be taking part in the protest held by Adhaalath party.

”We are against [the sale of alcohol],” Shareef said. ”Maldivians would not let the government to sell and use alcohol in the inhabited islands.”

He said the party was confused about the government’s policy on the subject.

President of religious NGO Jamiyyath-al-Salaf, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Ibrahim said the organisation would also take part in Friday’s protest by the Adhaalath Party, and that the entire coalition of concerned NGOs would participate.

”The whole country is against it,” he said. ”We will continue our protest until we succeed.”

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said he was confident that the president would not pass any law against the tenets of Islam, and would discuss the matter with the Islamic Ministry and the Economic Ministry over the coming days.

He said that the regulations would “not technically” become effective until they were published in the government’s gazette, and noted that “the President has not yet made the decision to do so. He has reservations and is seeking advice as to the extent the regulations [can be implemented].”

The ministry of economic developments commented that the regulations would come into effect on 1 March “were not true”, he said, “even if gazetted, as certain criteria have to be met by sellers.”

State Minister for Economic Development Adhil Saleem said the regulations would be effective from 1 March “unless we receive instructions otherwise.”

“We have a mandate to regulate controlled substances,” he said. “This ministry regulates the use of alcohol and pork in this country, and working with police and customs we have formulated regulations we believe are best suited for today’s economy.”

The sale of alcohol, he said, was innately linked to Western tourism in the Maldives and its ability “to provide an environment conducive to foreign investment.”

“The Maldivian people want an international airport at Gan, and there are many development projects to boost economic activity through foreign investment,” he said. “If we want to be [a hub] like Singapore, we have to allow big hotel chains to establish themselves here and create an environment attractive to foreign investment. City hotels create economic activity and jobs.”

Adhil said he felt people were “being misled” over the issue, and “do not understand what this means for the economy.”

“It’s not just the development of airports [at stake] but schools and hospitals. We cannot achieve this development by 2013 unless our revenues increase.”

He claimed that many countries grappled with the issue, “and if you take a religious angle on this, many Muslim countries issue liquor permits to non-Muslims. Some of them have minerals, soil or gold, we have based our economy on tourism. For 15 years we’ve been attracting Western tourism development, and that includes alcohol. If that is unacceptable we should design another industry.”

He noted that many resorts in the Maldives “employ more than 1000 Maldivians, which is larger than the population of some inhabited islands.”

Like those opposed to the new regulations, he said “the real public reaction will be gauged on Friday. Let’s see how many people turn up. If this is something the majority of people don’t want, then no doubt the government will reconsider it. I am defending the new liquor regulations openly in public and I believe we should stand firm against these attacks.”