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Molotov cocktail attacks on KK Mart: Malaysia must show it won’t tolerate mob justice by teaching troublemakers a lesson.

Malaysian authorities must act swiftly to catch the culprits who hurled petrol bombs at 2 KK Mart stores over the "Allah" socks issue - or investors will flee.

A composite image of a molotov cocktail and Malaysian convenience store outlet KK Mart, signifying the mob justice and harassment involved in the socks case.
At 5.14 AM on 30 March, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a KK Mart convenience store in Kuantan. This is the second incident of mob justice directed at the convenience store chain under a week. (Photo: Getty Images)

I warned earlier that if the Malaysian authorities do not nip mob justice in the bud, there will be serious consequences for the nation.

I said this after acts of vigilantism following the discovery of socks bearing the word "Allah" being sold at an outlet of the KK Mart convenience store group, especially the throwing of a petrol bomb – which fortunately was a dud – at a KK Mart store in Bidor, Perak.

I was afraid that things would get worse if the authorities were slow to act or if rabble-rousers continued fanning emotions.

2nd case of petrol bombing

Now, the acts of vigilantism have increased and another petrol bomb was thrown into a store of the chain – this time in Kuantan, in Pahang state.

I don’t know how much damage this will do to the economy, not to mention inter-religious understanding.

At 5.14 am on 30 March, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a KK Mart convenience store in Kuantan.

Reports quoted Kuantan district police chief Assistant Commissioner Wan Mohd Zahari Wan Busu as saying the Molotov cocktail caused a small fire at the shop's front entrance.

Two staff in the store were stunned but soon recovered and put off the fire with an extinguisher. He said four shelves and some items were damaged by the fire, with losses estimated at RM500.

Earlier, on March 26, someone threw a petrol bomb at a KK Mart convenience store in Bidor, Perak but it did not ignite.

Vandalism by boycotting youths

If that was not enough, some people have started vandalising KK Mart stores.

A video on social media showed some guys recording themselves as they damaged products at a KK Mart store before putting them back on the shelves.

As they crush a chocolate bar and some bread, they are heard to shout “boycott, boycott”.

On 31 March, Umno Youth chief Dr Muhammad Akmal Saleh who had called for a boycott of KK Mart stores last week, condemned the Molotov cocktail attacks on the outlets.

However, he insisted in a Facebook post that the boycott must go on.

That’s not a good idea, given the current situation.

Akmal said: “Investigations should be done first before apportioning blame over this incident. We must remain calm and persist with the boycott.”

He was alluding to an earlier statement by Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution that “those who encourage this boycott should take responsibility to ease and stop the act of inflaming people’s sentiments”.

Saifuddin said: “While urging or encouraging a boycott might not be an offence, public trespass and causing damage are. It is clearly an offence when a member of the public trespasses on or tries to set fire to any premises.”

He added: “This issue has shown how easily the emotions and sentiments of the people are played on by irresponsible groups.”

Saifuddin promised police action in accordance with the law and appealed for calm.

Only 5 pairs of socks had "Allah" on them

The minister also revealed that police investigation found that only five of the 18,000 pairs of socks in the chain of stores had the word "Allah" on them.

Those who are throwing petrol bombs, indulging in acts of vigilantism and vandalism and even those who insist on a boycott after these incidents do not seem to care about the effect this will have on the economy and the thousands of workers of the convenience store chain, the second largest in the country.

From a domestic issue of interest, the socks issue has now become international news following the throwing of petrol bombs.

Which investor would want to invest in a country where individuals throw petrol bombs or commit acts of vigilantism over something or other?

Understandably, it has also rattled local businessmen.

Businessmen are worried

The Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) – which represents the interest of over 550 members - said in a statement on 27 March that members were fearful and worried over what was happening.

“The recent issues concerning one of our members has raised immense fear and grave concern among retailers and restauranteurs on the possibility of falling victim to similar malicious public persecution tactics under the pretext of freedom of speech (even without or prior to a formal indictment in the court of law).

“This harsh unprecedented action ultimately goes against the principles of natural justice. In addition, businessmen and investors are very concerned with the latest development which is perceived as a negative image for business growth and sustainability.”

This, it said, would affect any decision to expand or scale up their business locally and internationally, adding that “the treatment afforded to such retailers” would discourage new overseas investments coming into the country.

The MRCA has a point.

And all this is happening despite the fact that the management of KK Mart stopped the sale of socks after someone posted on social media that it was being sold at one of its outlets and went on to offer profuse apologies to Malaysian Muslims, and after the authorities charged five top officials of KK Mart and the vendor who had supplied the socks with wounding the feeling of Muslims.

The fact is KK Mart acted swiftly to try and diffuse the situation, and so did the attorney-general’s chambers.

Time for action, not reminders

KK Mart Group founder and executive chairman Dr Chai Kee Kan and his company director wife were charged on 26 March with intentionally wounding the religious sensitivities of Muslims by putting the socks on sale.

The vendor who supplied the socks, Xin Jian Chang Sdn Bhd, and its directors Soh Chin Huat, Goh Li Huay and Soh Hui San were charged with abetment.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim again reminded everyone on 30 March to respect the legal process and let the authorities handle the issue.

It’s too late for reminders, I’m afraid.

It is time for swift and decisive action.

It is time to go after the guys who are acting outside the law and those found to be inciting them. It is time to teach them a lesson and warn others that mob justice will not be tolerated in Malaysia.

Malaysia the biggest loser

In the meantime, members of the public should allow the police to do what they do best.

We should let the law run its course. We should remain calm. And we should try to repair the damage done to the economy and national unity.

The MRCA, in its statement, also said that Malaysia stood to be the biggest loser the longer the nation took to reconcile over this issue.

I couldn’t agree more.

A.Kathirasen is a veteran Malaysian journalist/editor who has been writing columns, with breaks, in newspapers and online since 1981. All views expressed are the writer's own.

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