KUCHING - The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry should not have been too hasty in confiscating paintbrushes suspected to be made from pig bristles and issuing compounds against traders.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak disagreed with the conduct of enforcement officers during the nationwide ops against traders selling the paintbrushes earlier this week, suggesting that the ministry should have advised traders to label the paintbrushes accordingly.
"I understand the issue with the paintbrushes with pig bristles but we cannot simply confiscate and compound the traders.
"We are living in a multiracial society, we have to respect other races in this country. What the ministry can do is advise traders to properly label these paintbrushes," he said during a Chinese New Year gathering at SJK Chung Hua 10th Mile.
Najib added that the Government would continue its policy of upholding mutual respect among the nation's multiracial society and reject any form of extremism.
"As prime minister, I am committed to continue the good work of our forefathers who believed that moderation is the key to living in peace and harmony," he added.
On Thursday, Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin instructed enforcement officers to stop seizing paintbrushes made of pig bristles.
He said traders were given a month to label the brushes correctly, which includes specifying if they are made of pig or dog products.
He noted that it would also be sufficient to label the brushes with the words "The products are made of animal bristles".
Yesterday, the Federation of Malaysia Hardware, Machinery and Building Materials Associations gave an undertaking to make sure that all paintbrushes made of pig bristles were appropriately labelled.
Association president Loh Foo said while the regulations requiring the labelling was not new, it had not been strictly enforced, leading to a number of hardware stores "taking it for granted".
"We understand the sensitivities involved and we are willing to apply the stickers that state if goods are made from pig parts," he said when contacted.
Last week, the ministry seized 2,003 paintbrushes made from pig bristles worth RM10,988.94 in a nationwide crackdown.
Hamzah said the goods were confiscated because it violated the Trade Description (Goods made from any part of pig or dog) Order 2013, which stipulates that such products must be labelled and kept separated.
Asked about his stand on the issue, Loh said he was supportive of Najib's call, but noted that so far, their talks were mostly with the ministry.
"Other authorities are also involved in this issue, such as Jakim and the Muslim Consumers Association, so we have to talk to these groups in order to resolve the issue in a mature manner," he said.
The association represents 3,500 hardware stores nationwide.