PM Anwar says Home Ministry seizure on rainbow Swatches ‘excessive’, but defends Malaysia’s anti-LGBT stance

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — Malaysia bans content that openly supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community because its people of diverse faiths have agreed to reject such public displays, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said.

But he also said in an interview with international broadcaster CNN aired in Malaysia early this morning that the ban does not mean that the government condones harassment of the LGBT community.

In the interview, Anwar was asked about the Home Ministry’s seizure of Swatch’s Pride collections of rainbow watches to celebrate the LGBT community back in May, with the law prescribing a three-jail jail term on those found guilty of selling or wearing such items.

“I will not defend that action, it is excessive. But the law, people in this country are Muslim and non-Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist; they expressed their consensus, in this country they do not accept open public displays.

“In the issue of Swatch watches, no charges have been imposed,” he replied.

Asked about the law being changed, Anwar expressed a desire for reform.

At the same time, he said there is a need to respect both the law and the Malaysian public’s consensus. Currently in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Anwar said Malaysia’s stance on LGBT should not be seen as a crackdown on individuals.

“But do we then go and harass them? That’s a different subject. I don’t approve of any attempt to harass,” he said.

In the interview, Anwar also refuted CNN interviewer Christiane Amanpour’s suggestion that Malaysians accept a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding LGBT matters.

He said that tolerance should be the prevailing approach. According to Anwar, the core issue regarding the LGBT community was harassment.

He said he is against harassment, and cited his own past experience facing sodomy charges.

Anwar underscored the need for a comprehensive review of the law to prevent its misuse for political persecution, as he had previously encountered.

“I have made it quite clear that we need to review and look at the law. It should not be abused. It should not be an attempt in the case to be used for political persecution.

“But finally, we have to respect the general sentiment of Malaysians,” he said.

On May 13 to 15, 2023, Home Ministry officers raided 16 of Swatch’s stores throughout Malaysia and seized 172 watches from its Pride collection.

In August, the ministry banned all elements of "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Plus” on Swatch’s timepieces and accessories, nearly after three months of the raid.