(Updated 6:21pm, 12 Jan 2009)
KUALA LUMPUR, 12 Jan 2009: Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said it was up to individuals whether to boycott American products to show their protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
“Let it be an individual choice.
“Some of them feel very strongly about it and while others look at it as a grey area because it is a complex matter and involves local businesses,” he told a press conference after opening the Third Islamic Economic Congress at Dewan Merdeka, Putra World Trade Centre, here today.
He was commenting on the call to boycott three major American brands, namely Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Colgate by the Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia and other non-governmental organisations on 9 Jan.
Naib said the matter was complex because it involved local businessmen who ran the franchises.
On the report by online news portal the Malaysian Insider that PAS was trying to picture Umno as a racist party, he said: “Umno is not an extreme party because we have always adopted very moderate and very pragmatic policies in this country.
“What is important is to judge Umno on our policies, not on the basis of any statements because statements from individuals do not constitute a policy.”
He also described PAS’s action as “a real opportunistic play.”
On another media report that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is in Malaysia, Najib said: “Oh really? I don’t know that he is here.
“Let me find out if he is really in Malaysia; maybe it is just a speculation; don’t say it is bad for Malaysia until we know for sure that he is here.”
Meanwhile, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan said the government’s support to calls by various organisations for the boycott of US products is welcome, but it must be done with caution.
He said this being that it could bring negative effects to the country.
“A boycott on foreign products, especially the US, has to be carried out carefully because we also have products which are exported (to other countries).
“We should show our anger and dissatisfaction, but in terms of boycotting products, it has to be looked into thoroughly because many of our business people are franchisees of American products,” he said after witnessing an agreement signing between Wangsa Tegap Sdn Bhd and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC here today.
He said what was crucial was for a change in the consumers’ attitude to buy local-made products instead of foreign goods.
“We have to realise that many franchises of American products are run by locals. The action to boycott the US products will indirectly affect their businesses, as well as will adversely affect income of the majority of locals working at the outlets,” he said in referring to Starbucks outlets and Coca Cola products.
He also emphasised the need for proper strategy to ensure success of the campaign by giving priority to local products, especially in the food sector.
This, he said, being that similar food and beverages under the franchise system could be produced by locals.
“What we need is a strategy. Otherwise, the implications will not be in our favour. The important thing is to show our protest to its actions,” he added. — Bernama