PETALING JAYA: The controversy over the Timah whisky brand should not degenerate into “shouting matches of racial and religious bigotry” but should instead be decided by existing laws on trade description and trademarks, say two civil society groups.
Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) and the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) have urged the critics to refer to the existing legal and constitutional system on trade description and trademarks.
KLSCAH believes that any change in name for the award-winning, locally manufactured Timah should not be deliberately hyped and distorted into a religious issue by politicians.
Instead, it said, people need to analyse the brand’s registered trademark from a legal standpoint, and whether or not it complies with the laws of the country.
“The ruling and opposition politicians have chosen to deliberately provoke a religious controversy just when the Melaka state election is heating up,” KLSCAH said in a press statement.
“Non-Muslims do trade alcohol and drink it. Cultures should be protected and respected,” it added.
Cenbet co-president Gan Peng Siu expressed his bewilderment at how a “non-issue” like a whisky’s name has been blown out of proportion, when Malaysia takes pride in moderation, as well as multiracial and multicultural harmony.
“This seems to be much ado over a non-issue. Is it about a Malaysian company producing alcoholic beverages? No. Besides Timah, there are many other alcohol brands produced in Malaysia. Is it because the whisky is called Timah, which is Malay for tin?
“Is it because the product carries the image of Captain Speedy, a well-known Englishman during the Victorian era who played a big role in Malaysia’s tin mining history? Or is it because Timah won global accolades last year, and as a Muslim-majority country, we cannot be seen to excel in the alcohol industry?” asked Gan.
The comments from both groups come in the wake of complaints about the name Timah that were raised after reports last week about the whisky being launched globally, a few months after it won international awards in London and San Francisco.
The distillery became the subject of criticism by PAS, whose leaders have called for the government to close down its operations. PAS Youth information chief Nazir Helmi even called Timah “a catastrophe and an insult to Malaysia”.