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  • Writer's pictureIlona Andrew

Timah Whiskey: Keep the name and image please, Malaysians tell maker


1 Nov 2021

By Ilona Andrew


KOTA KINABALU: A controversy surrounding the infamous Timah whiskey has led to a mull of name and image change to appease angered parliamentarians, but a group of Malaysians have launched an online petition pleading the maker, Winepak Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd to stand its ground.


The petition via change.org launched today by “a group of concerned Malaysian citizens of multi-ethnic backgrounds” called for the Malaysian Government, particularly Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi, to end the fiasco.


It said this is necessary to show that the ‘Keluarga Malaysia’ concept espoused by the prime minister is inclusive and rational as well as to prevent the demonising of ethnic minorities, who consume food and drinks forbidden to Muslims, under the false pretense of safeguarding Malay-Muslim sensitivities.


“The prime minister must ensure that Islam's principle of religious freedom — “for you is your religion, and for me is my religion” — is implemented in daily life.


“No one should be pressured into changing the name and image of their product, simply because of a sudden and deliberate provocation of fringe political sentiments, which have transformed this non-issue into a proverbial ‘hot potato’.


“If such political fanfare is allowed to reign supreme, who would dare invest in our Malaysia? Can we realistically hope for a reinvigorated economy post-Covid? What is at stake here is not just a single brand of whiskey, but our market freedom and economic rationality.


“The allegations that Timah is out to confuse or even insult the Muslims are completely dishonest, and cannot be supported by facts or logic,” read the details of the petition.


The whisky’s manufacturer previously said that ‘Timah’, the Malay word for tin, honours the role the metal played in the country’s development when Malaya was the world’s largest tin producer.


It was said to derive from the story of ‘Captain Speedy’ who served to uphold a state of peace and order in the mining district of Larut, Perak; not the abbreviation of ‘Fatimah’, the Prophet's daughter.


The group further reasoned that Captain Speedy was not a Muslim and he wore an Ethiopian skull cap – not kopiah, as he served later in Ethiopia – hence the image of a bearded man with a skull cap.


The whiskey also uses the Malay word ‘Timah’ to highlight its local origin, it added.


“While everyone is free not to celebrate Timah’s success in the international market, no one has the right to claim that Bahasa Malaysia, our national language, is exclusively for Muslims.


“West Malaysians should remember that our country consists not only of the Peninsula, but also of Sabah and Sarawak, where many native communities both habitually speak Bahasa Malaysia and celebrate their traditional alcohols — like lihing, montoku, bahar, tuak and langkau — as part of their cultural heritage.


“The foreparents of Sabah and Sarawak signed on to the formation of a secular Federation of Malaysia, where the consumption of alcohol is to be accepted as individual freedom. The hurling of rude insults on alcohol consumption goes against Borneo sensitivities and has no place in a Malaysia that treasures the presence of Sabah and Sarawak,” the group stressed.


The group also called upon Alexander to firmly defend the virtue of multiculturalism that the people of Sabah and Sarawak hold dear, and not to be a party of any action that forces Timah whiskey into a name change, when some quarters try to make alcohol consumption an unacceptable act in Malaysia.


Previously, Winepak has asked the ministry to be given a one-week period to discuss a “change of name and image” with shareholders and its board of directors.


PAS leaders were among those who have voiced their disapproval of the drink and urged the government to not allow any misuse of names that try to “confuse Muslims”.

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