PETALING JAYA: A business association is concerned that the recent seizure of Swatch watches bearing its “Pride” theme will send the wrong message to international brands looking to do business in Malaysia.
Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta) chairman William Ng fears foreign companies may think that Malaysia is a regressive country.
“The industry has put in a lot of effort in the past – even now – to attract international players such as the Swatch Group.
“An overreaction such as this makes it difficult for Malaysia to defend its position as a regional retail hotspot,” he said.
According to Ng, the retail sector contributes significantly to the nation’s economy.
He said the sector’s strength, success and ability to serve customers relies heavily on the variety of products on offer, as well as honesty and tolerance.
“Even if enforcement is based on existing laws, the authorities must take into consideration the impact on the economy and the industry,” he said.
Ng called for calm in the business community, saying nothing has been set in stone when it comes to bans on the colours and themes of products.
“In the meantime, it would be advisable for all retailers, especially the SMEs, to refrain from promoting products that may be deemed sensitive to certain segments of society, until we get a clearer directive from the government,” he said.
Ng was commenting on home ministry raids on 11 Swatch outlets recently, during which the brand’s rainbow-coloured “Pride Collection” watches were confiscated by enforcement officers.
The Edge business weekly reported that the raids were conducted on May 13-14 at Swatch outlets in shopping malls, including Pavilion KL, One Utama, Sunway Pyramid, Mid Valley Megamall and Suria Sabah.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the rainbow flag was designed by US national Gilbert Baker in the late 1970s to symbolise the gay community.
Reuters reported that the Swatch Group plans to take legal action to recover the watches from the government.
Meanwhile, former Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah said the brand was known for its bright coloured watches. She called the ministry’s intervention an “overkill”.
Maria added that the raid could potentially make the business community more wary about making unpopular decisions. It would also cause them to think twice about doing business in Malaysia.