PETALING JAYA: The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP), the first organisation to speak out on the Timah issue, has called the Cabinet decision to bar brand names that offend racial or religious sensitivities a “very good move”.
Yesterday, PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said the Cabinet had decided to bar brand names that could offend racial or religious sensitivities.
NV Subbarow, education officer at CAP, said the Cabinet decision had been long awaited by the group, which had spent the better part of a decade advocating for more regulation of labels.
“There must be a multiracial, multi-faith committee formed to deliberate on product labels,” he told FMT.
“They must be empowered to study the imagery and words on labels to ensure they don’t insult any group.”
Asked how one defined the word “offensive”, he admitted that this was a “tricky” matter.
“There can’t be any word or name that has reference to the culture, race or religion, for one. There should also not be any person like scholars or historical figures, for example, as that may offend some groups.
“Look at brands like Guinness, they had used a bulldog earlier (now a harp) and Tiger beer obviously has a tiger. These are fine. And you have wine labels that just tell you where they are from, like Germany or France, and the year it was made. These are also not a problem.”
Not everyone was a fan of the decision, however.
Shaun Edward Cheah, executive director of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the government should not be interfering with businesses “unless (the branding) is really offensive”.
“There should be no vague policies, like ‘brands that offend sensitivities.’ It’s so unclear, as any segment of the community can take offence to something.”
He added that creating a business environment laced with uncertainty would send the wrong message to foreign investors about the country’s decision-making process.
“If something like the Timah issue, which only a small group is politicising, can lead to a Cabinet decision like this, it does not reflect well on national policies.”
Marimuthu Nadason, president of the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations, said while he had no issue with the government dictating advertising and marketing material, it should not go any further by restricting any products entirely.
“If the government wants to set rules on advertising and marketing, that’s up to them and for the producers to adhere to them.
“But consumers should be able to choose whether they want to use a product or not. They have the right to make that decision, nobody else.”