MIRI, Nov 15 — Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg maintained that his state government does not have an issue with naming a made-in-Malaysia whisky Timah.
The name has drawn deep lines in the peninsula, with ruling Islamist party PAS asserting its objection to the use of the Malay word despite the Cabinet’s approval.
“We don’t want to fight over trivial and petty issues,” Abang Johari said at the opening of the Miri City Hall here today.
He said he does not know why the name of the liquor has become sensitive.
“You know Timah... just because the name is Timah, it has become a problem. Timah is the name of a lady, but it is also the Malay word for tin,” he said.
He said it is also the same when the state government has no issue with the Sarawakian Christians using the word “Allah” to call their God.
“It is between you and your God. Why worry? What for you create unnecessary problems?” he asked.
The chief minister suggested that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s choice of the Sarawak capital, Kuching, as the platform to launch his Keluarga Malaysia initiative was not by accident.
“Why? Sarawak is indeed a Keluarga Malaysia platform,” he said.
Abang Johari has repeatedly upheld the hornbill state as an exemplary model of religious, racial harmony.
He added that it would be a major problem for the state if religious and racial extremists were allowed to gain a foothold in Sarawak through the coming state election.
“So I told the federal leaders to let the Sarawak election be confined among Sarawakians.
“I told them because Sarawak problems can only be handled by Sarawakians,” he said.
PAS leaders continued to voice its Opposition today to naming the local whisky Timah even though its lawmakers are members of federal government.
PAS senator Idris Ahmad, who is also federal minister in charge of Islamic affairs, told Malay daily Sinar Harian that nobody in his party agreed to the Cabinet’s decision and the consumption of alcohol no matter what name is used for the brand.
“As far as this alcohol issue is concerned whether Timah, Dollah or Wahab PAS does not agree with it,” the PAS vice-president was quoted saying.
An Opposition lawmaker from PKR previously proclaimed in Parliament that drinking Timah whisky was akin to drinking a Malay woman, triggering another controversy.
Last Saturday, the federal Cabinet allowed the whisky brand Timah to keep its name.