Now, I am no big fan of oil companies and petrol stations, but I feel the Ministry has overstepped its authority in this “must open 24 hours” issue.
Since these are private businesses (not owned by government), the Ministry has no authority to dictate their opening hours. If it can do this, what is to stop the Ministry from dictating the opening hours for any other businesses? For example, it may order all clinics to open 24 hours. For that matter, why not order all mechanics and car workshops to open 24 hours?
I watched the press conference on Tv3 news last night where Datuk Shafie threatened unspecified sanctions against the petrol dealers. When pressed by reporters for details, he only said something like “They know what will happen to them.”
This gives me the impression that the Ministry has no legal standing in this matter. Plus, Datuk Shafie comes off as capricious, and the Ministry appears to be making up rules as it goes along.
Worse, the Ministry’s stance on petrol stations staying open 24 hours is a direct contradiction to its stance on hypermarkets’ opening hours.
Recall that this is the same ministry (and the same minister) which, in 2004, barred hypermarkets from opening 24 hours. This, despite protests from consumers, and appeals from the hypermarkets who actually want to open 24 hours (unlike these petrol kiosk operators).One excuse that the Ministry is using is that petrol is a “controlled item” or “essential item”. But aren’t there a lot more controlled items sold in hypermarkets? Don’t I have a right to buy sugar, flour and chicken at any time of the day or night? Isn’t food more of an essential item than petrol?