Malaysia is facing another controversy following the recent uproar over Coldplay’s concert on November 22. Conservative political parties, who strongly oppose the band’s advocacy for LGBT rights and have called for their concert’s cancellation, are now expressing their dissatisfaction once again.
The new controversy stems from raid conducted on May 13 and 14 at several Swatch stores across the country. The Ministry of Home Affairs (KDN) took action after receiving a social media post linking Swatch’s Pride Collection to Coldplay’s support for the LGBTQIA+ community. The timepieces, adorned with vibrant rainbow colors symbolizing diversity and inclusivity, were confiscated during the raids.
The targeted stores included those in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, One Utama, Sunway Pyramid, Setia City Mall, Mid Valley Megamall, Southkey, Sunway Putra Mall, Sogo KL, Queensbay, Fahrenheit 88, and Suria Sabah. Additionally, five stores, namely KTCC (Terengganu), Aeon KB, Aman Central Kedah, City Square, and Viva City Kuching, received warnings.
Nick Hayek Jr., the CEO of Swatch Group, expressed his disappointment and concern regarding the seizure in a statement released to the press. He emphasized the brand’s commitment to promoting innovation and diversity, saying Swatch has always been renowned for its colorful and enjoyable watches that aim to celebrate individuals from all walks of life.
“Swatch is proud of being the canvas on the wrist for all people worldwide and many artists working with us. Creativity and colours paired with Swiss-made quality is what we are loved for. We strongly contest that our collection of watches using rainbow colours and having a message of peace and love could be harmful for whomever.
“On the contrary, Swatch always promotes a positive message of joy in life. This is nothing political. We wonder how the Bahagian Penguatkuasa Dan Kawalan, Kementerian Dalam Negeri will confiscate the many beautiful natural rainbows that are showing up thousand times a year in the sky of Malaysia,” said Hayek.
The raids are representative of the Malaysian government’s reactionary fear of LGBT rights, which encompass not just members of the stigmatized minority but also those perceived to support them. Conservative factions have persistently urged for boycotts of companies that endorse progressive ideals or unveil products that defy conventional gender norms.
At present, Swatch Group is actively appealing for the return of the confiscated watches.
Meanwhile, activists and internet users were also quick to condemn the government’s actions.
Jejaka, a leading gay rights organisation in Malaysia, expressed its profound dismay and concern at the recent seizures.
“The actions taken against Swatch’s Pride Collection reveal a deeply unsettling level of intolerance. It is more than a matter of colourful watches; it’s about respect for diversity, freedom of expression, and, most importantly, love.”
We must remember that a more accepting society begins with embracing all colours of the rainbow. Each represents a different story, a different struggle, and a different victory,” said Dhia Rezki Rohaizad, Deputy President of Jejaka, an NGO that supports gay, bisexual and queer Malaysians.
You're telling me that they wasted taxpayers money to…. raid Swatch stores????? https://t.co/NcyO8yb354
— 𝔽𝕒𝕕𝕫𝕚𝕝𝕟𝕠𝕚𝕣 (@fadzilnoir) May 22, 2023
So @saifnasution’s Ministry is using state resources to prevent a few luxury watches to be worn. I can name a couple of really important matters for the Home Ministry if they find themselves so bereft of real work that they are going after @Swatch. https://t.co/c3qsHAWbM3
— Sharaad C. Kuttan (@SharaadKuttan) May 22, 2023
“Malaysian authorities raid Swatch stores over rainbow Pride Collection.” https://t.co/DqSUcojGbD
— The IvyGram (@ivyjosiah) May 23, 2023
In case you’re interested in buying Swatch’s Pride collection, you can still find them here.