After a Cabinet-level debate, M'sian govt reach agreement for TIMAH whiskey to keep its name

They have to explain what "timah" means on each bottle.

Faris Alfiq | November 15, 2021, 09:49 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates:

The Malaysian Cabinet has allowed the controversial award-winning Malaysian whiskey brand, TIMAH, to retain its name with one condition, Malay Mail reported.

The manufacturer will be required to include an additional label on whiskey bottles to explain that its brand name, TIMAH, refers to "bijih timah", a Malay translation of "tin ore".

Claimed name was "confusing"

The controversy began on Oct. 18, when the mufti (religious leader) for the state of Penang, Wan Salim Wan Noor, called on the Malaysian government to order the company to change the name of the whiskey, so it does not "trigger the sensitivity of Muslims in the country". 

He claimed that the word "Timah" was derived from the word "Fatimah", the name of Prophet Muhammad's daughter, and a common name among Malay women.

Wan Salim also added that what made the branding worse was the purported image of "a religious man in a beard and skullcap".

On Oct. 28, a member of parliament (MP) from Pakatan Harapan, Rusnah Aluai, said in parliament that the brand name was "confusing".

"It is as though we are drinking Malay women," Rusnah said.

She also suggested that the brand depict Captain Speedy in different hats, as the current one looks like a Muslim skullcap.

The whiskey company then came forward with a statement saying that "any interpretation of our name unrelated to Malaysian mining is false," and added that the name TIMAH whiskey "harks back to the tin mining era during British Malaya."

The word "timah", in reference to the brand, is a Malay translation for the word "tin".

PH MP apologised, claimed speech was " misunderstood"

A day after making the remark, Rusnah took to Facebook and apologised to those offended by the speech.

She claimed that her speech was "misunderstood" and that her initial intention was "to make sure there is no confusion about the label."

Malay Mail added that Rusnah did not clarify what she meant by her speech that was misunderstood.

Planned to change brand name and image

Winepark Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd, the Malaysian distillery that produces TIMAH whiskey, had reportedly planned to change the brand name, Free Malaysia Today reported.

Winepak was asked to be given one week to discuss "a change of name and image" with its shareholders and board of directors.

Cabinet discussed TIMAH whiskey

On Nov. 13, Malaysia's Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, together with Domestic Trade and Cooperatives Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi, said that they had met up with the representatives of the board of directors of Timah whiskey producers to "understand the entire incident and the latest position of the company."

In the statement, they added that in recent Cabinet meetings, members had also discussed the latest developments regarding the TIMAH incident.

"I am gratified that in the spirit of the 'Malaysian Family', the relevant incident has been successfully resolved," Wee wrote in Mandarin on his Facebook account, Malay Mail reported.

Pakatan Harapan exploiting issue, claims govt minister

In the Facebook post, Wee claimed that Pakatan Harapan was using the opportunity to stir racial and religious issues.

He thanked the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister for cooperating with him on the issue so that Pakatan Harapan's "tricks of playing with religious and ethnic issues cannot succeed".

However, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng (part of Pakatan Harapan) claimed that Wee was using the TIMAH whiskey branding controversy to win the support of non-Muslims.

"A non-issue like retaining the name of TIMAH whiskey requiring Cabinet approval has made Malaysia an international laughing-stock and shows how perilous the position of non-Malays and non-Muslims are under the current Federal government," Lim said as reported by Malay Mail.

"Wee is portraying the Cabinet decision to allow TIMAH brand whiskey to maintain its name as a big gain for the non-Malay community and non-Muslims, this shows the steep descent and extent of how much the rights and status of non-Muslims have deteriorated when MCA got back into government," he added.

PAS still disagrees

Even as the Malaysian Cabinet gave a nod of approval for TIMAH to retain its name, Malaysia Islamic Party, PAS, who arguably first raised the issue, do not agree with the position, The Star reported.

PAS vice president Idris Ahmad said that the party was clear on its stance and opposed the Cabinet's decision.

"We do not agree to whatever name is used whether it is Timah, Dolah, Wahab... we strongly oppose it," Idris said as reported by Sinar Harian.

"No one from the party supports the whiskey brand Timah," he added.

The Star reported that Idris refused to comment in his capacity as the Minister at Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) as the Cabinet already had its final say.

Related stories:

Follow and listen to our podcast here

Top image via Wee Ka Siong/Facebook and Timah Whiskey/Facebook