Lifetime licence ban on Crackhouse Comedy club owner no joke, say local govt experts

The decision to permanently blacklist the owner of a comedy club in Taman Tun Dr Ismail from registering business licences in Kuala Lumpur has raised eyebrows.

Lawyer Derek Fernandez wondered what provision City Hall was invoking in blacklisting someone from applying for business licences for life.

“I’ve not heard of such a provision, unless there is some special one that I do not know about,” Fernandez, who is also a local government expert, told Twentytwo13.

“Even if the owner of the club was operating without an entertainment licence, as mentioned by the authorities earlier, there is no provision to blacklist someone for life under the Entertainment (Federal Territory Kuala Lumpur) Act, 1992.”

Section 4 of the Act states that those found guilty of not possessing a licence can face a maximum fine of RM50,000 and/or a jail term not exceeding five years.

Section 29 meanwhile, states that those who breach the terms of their licence can be fined up to RM20,000 and jailed for three years or both, upon conviction.

Fernandez pointed out that provisions for a permanent blacklist also do not exist under the Local Government Act.

It was reported earlier today that Deputy Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Jalaluddin Alias had said that City Hall’s licencing committee, in its meeting on July 29, had decided to ban the owner of Crackhouse Comedy Club from ever applying for business licences.

The club and its owner, Mohammad Rizal Johan Van Geyzel, hogged the spotlight for the wrong reasons following an allegedly indecent performance at the club’s open mic night.

Siti Nuramira Abdullah, 26, and her boyfriend, V. Alexander Navin, 38, were arrested after the performance made its rounds on social media.

On July 13, Siti Nuramira claimed trial at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court after being charged under Section 298A of the Penal Code with causing disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill will, or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion.

Alexander meanwhile, claimed trial to two counts of uploading insulting content on social media on June 5 and June 16. The charges made at the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court were framed under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act, 1998.

Rizal, meanwhile, was charged in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court with three counts of posting insulting remarks touching on religious and racial sensitivities.

Fernandez added that under normal circumstances, a show cause process must be initiated if a business owner contravenes stipulations in his or her licence. This includes giving the alleged wrongdoer a right to be heard.

“Was this done? Was the owner of the club called up to explain? Under what provision was the decision made?” he asked.

Fernandez added the decision by the authorities appeared harsh.

“At the very most, you can fine a person and caution them. It’s not very Keluarga Malaysia-like. If any of your children do not behave, you caution them. You don’t ban them from coming to the house for life.”

“The court has not decided on the matter. Of course, he should be punished if he is found guilty for insulting the feelings of others. But the local council cannot ban people for life for not having an entertainment licence,” Fernandez said.

Another local government expert, who requested anonymity, said banning the club owner for life from registering for a business licence is akin to double jeopardy.

“He won’t be able to open a business in the same industry, nor can he set up a business in another industry,” he said.

“To my knowledge, there has not been a case where a person is banned for life from operating a business in the federal capital for flouting previous licencing terms.

“Is this the person’s first offence, or is he a repeat offender? Were there previous warnings and show cause notices given to the offender?” he asked.

He added that City Hall is “sending the wrong message”, not only to the local business community but also to foreigners wanting to invest here.

“This matter will become the butt of jokes if the authorities do not clear the air, or if they decide to reverse their decision. In any case, there is no point killing a mosquito with a bulldozer, as you can just do it with your hands,” he added.

Attempts to get Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Mahadi Che Ngah and his licencing and business development department director, Khairul Anuar Juri, proved futile.