Malaysian minister in boycott row says he had interests of Chinese consumers at heart

Mr Ismail, who ruffled a number of feathers last week when he called for the boycott on his Facebook posting (which has since been removed), said Chinese consumers too had expressed unhappiness that prices of goods remained high despite a drop in fue
Mr Ismail, who ruffled a number of feathers last week when he called for the boycott on his Facebook posting (which has since been removed), said Chinese consumers too had expressed unhappiness that prices of goods remained high despite a drop in fuel costs in the country. -- PHOTO: UTUSAN MALAYSIA

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian agriculture minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has refused to retract or apologise over his call to boycott overcharging Chinese businesses, and said the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) should thank him for protecting the interests of Chinese consumers as well.

Mr Ismail, who ruffled a number of feathers last week when he called for the boycott on his Facebook posting (which has since been removed), said Chinese consumers too had expressed unhappiness that prices of goods remained high despite a drop in fuel costs in the country.

"So, why is there a need for me to apologise when I am defending those who are burdened by the high prices of goods," Mr Ismail was quoted as saying by the Malaysian Insider news portal.

Mr Ismail was responding to MCA's insistence that he apologise for his remark urging Malay consumers to boycott Chinese businesses to force a drop in the price of goods in line with lower oil prices.

"The majority of consumers are Malay, Chinese are a minority, if the Malays boycott their businesses, they will have no choice but to reduce their prices," Mr Ismail's Facebook posting had said.

He admitted to making the post and later said it was not directed at all Chinese but only traders who refused to reduce their prices.

MCA is the leading Chinese party in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in Malaysia. Its leaders had criticised Mr Ismail for "rascist comments" and demanded an apology charging the minister with a "lack of restraint and maturity".

MCA leader's have said they would raise the matter at the next cabinet meeting, but Mr Ismail dismissed the idea saying the subject was closed after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had issued a statement clearing him of racism.

PM's Department on February 5 said Mr Ismail's call was not aimed at Chinese, specifically, but at all businesses which refused to lower prices. Mr Najib maintained that BN would continue to support and look out for the interest of all races.