Johor government says no racial element to signage debacle.
The order from the Muar Municipal Council (MPM) to remove Chinese characters from signboards as well as fronts and pillars of buildings in Muar has been rescinded, less than 48 hours after it was made.
Traders at Jalan Sisi were relieved to learn about the reversal of the order to remove the lettering and signboards, some of which are cast onto pre-war buildings.
The announcement to rescind the order was made by MPM president Mustaffa Kamal Shamsudin on Thursday (Sept 6).
It was reported by Sin Chew that the notices were issued on Tuesday to occupants of the premises by council officers.
Shop operators, some who have been doing business there for decades and many of whom had inherited the business from their forefathers, cried foul over the orders to do so.
The wordings were said to violate local advertising laws as they were bigger than the ones in Malay and shop owners could be fined up to of RM2,000, jailed two years, or both.
State executive councillor Tan Hong Pin later denied any racial element in the initial order, explaining that MPM officers were merely enforcing a rule on the size of lettering for signboards.
In a press conference today, Tan said MPM officers were bound by a 12-year-old BN-era regulation pertaining to the size of non-BM shop signages and fonts.
“The issue is supposedly that the Pakatan Harapan government was acting cruelly towards a certain race. Firstly, I hope this does not become a racial issue whereas it actually involves enforcement officers in a rush to carry out their duties, without any ill intent.”
Tan, who oversees local government, science and technology, said the importance of preserving Muar’s heritage elements had probably been lost in the zeal of law enforcement.
Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman earlier expressed his objection towards the “forceful removal” of local retailers’ trademark signage by the local council.
“I categorically oppose the forceful removal of the Mandarin (Chinese-lettered) trademark.
“Muar’s beauty is its diversity and we should protect that at all cost.
“The Mandarin trademark is also the living history of Muar, which has been there for more than half a century,” Syed Saddiq said in a statement to the press.
Council president Mustaffa Kamal Shamsudin, meanwhile, said that his officers were forced to issue the notices, especially as many shop operators had not applied for the appropriate number of signage licences.
He said the council wanted to avoid questions during audit over why it was not enforcing the rule regarding font size and on payment of licensing fees.
The state government would be issuing a new circular and guidelines soon for local councils pertaining to advertising signs and its enforcement, taking into account the position of the national language as well as historical and heritage factors.