Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) urges the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs Ministry to have a more pragmatic, consultative and inclusive approach in promoting consumers’ right to be informed and right to choose. It also urges the return of the 2,003 paint brushes made from pig bristles worth RM10,988.94 confiscated in the raids early this month.
GBM recognises the legitimate need for consumers’ right to be informed and right to choose with regard to the raw materials used in producing even non-edible goods. Such need is relevant not only to Muslims who are concerned over pig parts, but also Hindus over cow parts, and vegans over animal parts in general.
GBM however also cautions regarding over-zealousness in pursuing such information and freedom to choose to the extent it causes unnecessary inconveniences, ill-will and segregation.
While traders should highlight product raw material information where possible, it is unreasonable to punish traders for their ignorance with hefty punishments like fines up to RM100,000 and imprisonment up to three years or both, under the Trade Descriptions (Goods Made from any part of Pig or Dog) Order 2013.
The inconvenient fact is that pig products are used extensively in modern life in unimaginable ways. Products that may cover pig derivatives - often just minutely - include cigarette filters, fertilisers, fabric softeners, shampoos, candles, washing powder, paper, photographic film, crayons, shoes, bullets, explosives and paints, beside paint brushes.
A rigid implementation of the Trade Descriptions Order 2013 may therefore land innocent traders - beyond the hardware business, but also in agricultures, toiletries, photography and even the arms industry - in legal trouble. This will then inevitably force some traders to just label any products in doubt as “non-halal” or “not sellable to Muslims”, which only inconveniences Muslim consumers and results in religious segregation in commerce.
Such a response is already seen after the raid on brushes.
GBM regrets that such a hasty handling of the bristle brush issue has not only caused disharmony amongst Malaysians of different ethno-religious backgrounds, but also unwittingly contributed to a negative image of Islam and Islamisation for some. GBM believes that, if the issue has been framed properly as one of consumers’ right to be informed and to choose, and consultation is carried out instead of enforcement, it would have been empathetically resolved.
GBM welcomes Minister Hamzah Zainuddin’s instruction to stop the paint brush raid after Feb 8 and urges the immediate return of the confiscated goods. Hopefully, the minister’s pragmatic approach will bring a good closure to this controversy and consumers’ rights to be informed and choose will be advanced by all quarters.
GBM urges the authorities to be more pragmatic, consultative and inclusive in all public policy matters. Religious sensitivity is best preserved when all stakeholders are brought together for discussions and diverse views are considered to avoid blind spots.
Endorsed by the following member organisations of GBM:
1. Anak Muda Sarawak (AMS),
3. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH),
4. Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen (Kami),
5. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG),
6. Merdeka University Berhad (MUB),
7. National Indian Rights Action Team (Niat),
8. Negri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH),
9. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran),
10. Persatuan Bekas Siswazah Universiti dan Kolej di China, Malaysia (Liu Hua),
11. Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (Ikram),
12. Pusat Komas (Komas),
13. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM),
14. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram),
15. Tamil Foundation Malaysia (TF),
16. Tindak Malaysia (TM),
17. United Chinese School Alumni Associations of Malaysia (UCSAAM).