Business community voiced concerns over raid of Swatch Pride watches

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The recent confiscation of Swatch watches featuring the “Pride” theme has raised concerns among a business association, which believes the action could create a negative perception among international brands considering business opportunities in Malaysia.

Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta) chairman William Ng expressed his concern that this incident may lead foreign companies to perceive Malaysia as 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,” FMT quoted him as saying.

Ng emphasised that the retail industry plays a vital role in bolstering the country’s economy.

He highlighted that the sector’s resilience, success, and capacity to cater to customers heavily depend on the diverse range of products available, as well as the values of integrity and inclusiveness and 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 urged the business community to remain calm, noting that no definitive decisions have been made regarding restrictions or bans on product colours and themes.

“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.

He was commenting on recent raids conducted by the Home Ministry on 11 Swatch outlets, where enforcement officers seized the brand’s “Pride Collection” watches featuring rainbow colours.

It was reported that 164 watches, worth US$14,000 (RM64,000) were confiscated for violating the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said had on Thursday said the watches were confiscated due to “the LGBT wording” displayed on the dial and not because they came in rainbow colours.

Swatch Group chief executive officer Nick Hayek, however, on Saturday said the Pride watches seized by local authorities did not contain any reference to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Meanwhile, former Petaling Jaya member of parliament Maria Chin Abdullah said Swatch was known for its bright coloured watches. She described the ministry’s intervention as an “overkill”.

Maria further stated that the raid could instil caution among the business community when it comes to making unpopular decisions. It would also lead them to reconsider conducting business in Malaysia. – NST