Gov’t enforces ban on Swatch LGBT watches, possession lead to 3 years’ jail

THE government has taken a controversial step by imposing a ban on Swatch watches and associated materials including packaging that feature LGBT-related elements.

The decision was announced by the Home Ministry, which cited Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) as the basis for the ban. According to the ministry, this move is supported by a gazette that has been issued.

Moreover, under Section 8(2) of the PPPA, severe penalties have been outlined for those found involved in the sale, distribution, or possession of the prohibited materials.

Such actions could result in a prison sentence of up to three years, a fine reaching RM20,000, or a combination of both penalties.

Section 7 of the PPPA gives the Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail wide-ranging authority to ban items.

As outlined in Section 7(1), the issuance of a ban through a gazette is permissible if the minister deems that any publication contains content that could be detrimental to public order, morality, security or that might incite public concern.

Additionally, content deemed contrary to the law or prejudicial to public or national interest can also warrant a ban.

Section 7(1) states that a ban via a gazette can be issued “if the minister is satisfied that any publication contains any article, caricature, photograph, report, notes, writing, sound, music, statement or any other thing which is in any manner prejudicial to or likely to be prejudicial to public order, morality, security, or which is likely to alarm public opinion, or which is or is likely to be contrary to any law or is otherwise prejudicial to or is likely to be prejudicial to public interest or national interest”.

This move bears some similarity to a past incident in 2015 when the former Barisan Nasional (BN) government employed the same legal provisions to ban Bersih T-shirts. However, this ban was later deemed unreasonable by the Court of Appeal, which overturned the decision.

In a recent event in late May, the Home Ministry undertook raids on Swatch stores, confiscating watches from the Rainbow collection due to their perceived LGBT connotations.

The timing of this ban is noteworthy, occurring just two days before the six state elections. The government is striving to gain support in states such as Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, with a particular focus on winning over conservative voters.

A survey conducted by Ilham Centre and published earlier today indicated that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s support among Malays stands at just one in four.

Furthermore, the government’s prohibition of Swatch watches and related items with LGBT associations has elicited both attention and controversy. This move could potentially influence the upcoming state polls and attract or repel various segments of the population based on their perspectives. – Aug 10, 2023

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