Tourism fears for Bali over party's push to ban alcohol in Indonesia

JAKARTA: Indonesia will consider banning all alcohol and putting drinkers in jail for up to two years.

The ban, which would decimate the night life in tourist haven Bali, has been proposed and listed on Indonesia's national parliamentary legislative agenda for next year.

But the chairman of Bali's Tourism Board, Ngurah Wijaya, said he would ''flatly reject'' any attempt to ban alcohol or jail drinkers. Drinking is ''part of the international world and we are here to attract tourists'', he said.

The Bill for a Ban on Alcoholic Drinks was drafted by the predominantly Islamic United Development Party, a member of the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's, governing coalition.

The strict ban should be ''applied nationwide within the territory of the unitary state of the republic of Indonesia'', the bill says.

Those who produce alcoholic drinks would be subject to penalties of up to 10 years in prison and Rupiah10 billion ($1 million) in fines; there would be $520,000 in fines and five years in prison for those who distribute them, and two years' imprisonment and a $20,800 fine for those who consume alcohol.

Indonesia is a Muslim majority country and people refrain from drinking. But alcohol is available in nightclubs, bars and some cafes.

The ban is part of a heavy 2013 legislative agenda in a notoriously gridlocked and slow-moving parliament. It may never even be debated, let alone passed.

In 2008, an attempt by Islamic politicians to ban the bikini under the country's pornography laws was overruled after protests from the tourist industry.

The anti-alcohol law's proponent, the United Development Party MP Ahmad Kurdi Moekri, said the proposal was ''to safeguard the nation's morals''.

''It is the mandate of our constitution; it's about character building,'' he said.

Mr Ahmad, a member of the national parliament's Commission III overseeing legal affairs, said alcoholic drinks ''have a greater negative impact on the nation than positive, and anything negative to the nation is the nation's enemy''.

But he warned outsiders not to interpret the legislation as an act of religious radicalism.

''We should not take the stance … that, since the bill was proposed by a party of certain religious background, that it might lead to turning the country into a religious-based state,'' he said. ''It's such a small-minded approach.''

The United Development Party has 39 representatives, which is 7 per cent of the seats, in the 560-seat parliament.

The Indonesian brewer Bintang, maker of the favourite beer among Australians travelling in Bali, declined to comment, other than to say it was a ''very sensitive subject''.