DAP’s Nga slams ‘instigators’ as fast food chains face anti-Israel boycott

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DAP leader and federal minister Nga Kor Ming has accused those who call for boycott of products as “instigators” out to ruin domestic economy, as Malaysian Muslims join a global boycott of US interests to protest Washington’s continued support for Israel.

Nga, who is the housing and local government minister, was commenting on a Chinese-language news report about workers of a fast food outlet feeling the effects of the boycott, which has centred on several global US brands with Israeli presence.

“Never fall into the trap of instigators, our country needs the efforts of all parties to develop the economy,” Nga, the DAP vice-chairman, said in a social media post.

He described those boycotting the fast food chain as irresponsible, adding that it was hurting Malaysia’s economy.

The comments drew strong reactions from Muslims, who criticised Nga for blaming the weak economy on the anti-Israel boycott.

In an immediate response, BDS Malaysia, the local chapter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement behind the global anti-Israel boycott, accused Nga of blaming the boycott of certain brands for the overall economic performance.

“If people boycott one store, they will buy from other stores,” BDS Malaysia chairman Nazari Ismail told MalaysiaNow.

He cited the example of a computer brand and a fuel company that BDS Malaysia has called for a boycott.

“If people don’t buy a certain XX computer, they will buy other brands. If they don’t go to a certain fuel station, they will go to other fuel stations. There are many options. So the economy in general is not really affected. Only the boycotted companies are affected.”

Umno Youth chief Dr Akmal Saleh echoed similar sentiments, saying that boycotts in the past, including during the Najib Razak era, had not had any impact on the economy.

“To the unwise minister Nga Kor Ming, the reason why the country’s economy is doing badly is because there are ministers like you! Stupid!” he said in a Facebook post.

While many praised Akmal for criticising Nga, there were also some who questioned him and the Umno leadership for still being an ally of Pakatan Harapan (PH).

“People knew PH was stupid from the beginning. Why are you (Umno) so keen to form the government with them? And don’t give me the excuse that it’s an instruction from the Agong,” Akmal Izzad wrote.

In November last year, McDonald’s, one of the popular Western fast food chains feeling the effects of the boycott, caused a stir when the company said it was working with the government to bring sedition charges against those calling on consumers to shun the company.

In a social media post that has since been removed, representatives of the company were photographed with the chairman of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), Mohamad Salim, the internet regulator that often cracks down on those it accuses of fuelling hate and spreading fake news online.

Affected by the boycott, many major US franchises in Muslim countries have been forced to show their sympathy for Palestinians by announcing humanitarian aid for Gaza, while others were quick to distance themselves from the franchise owners.

Some, such as KFC, have reminded the public that they are a local company with banners outside their outlets.

Nevertheless, the boycott campaign against these companies seems to be successful, as the normally busy McDonald’s and KFC outlets across the country are almost empty even during peak hours.

A similar fate has befallen Starbucks Malaysia, whose cafes across the country have borne the brunt of an aggressive boycott campaign.

In Malaysia, Starbucks is owned by Berjaya Food, which is part of Berjaya Corporation, the conglomerate linked to prominent billionaire Vincent Tan.

The company also owns the 7-Eleven retail chain, whose chairman is Farhash Wafa Salvador, the former political secretary to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

In December, MalaysiaNow reported that 7-Eleven in Israel is one of the biggest supporters of the military action in Gaza, following a trend of local franchisees of global brands expressing moral support for the Zionist regime.

Just as Israel was preparing to attack Gaza following the Hamas’ Oct 7 attacks, 7-Eleven offered a 50% discount to soldiers recruited for the military operations in Gaza, which have so far killed nearly 30,000 Palestinian civilians.

Even before Nga’s latest comments, a video on WhatsApp was making the rounds in which he was criticised for officiating a Starbucks branch in the lobby of his ministry in Putrajaya.

The Starbucks café, which opened just two months before the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in October, is the only branch of its kind on the premises of a ministry.

Nga’s latest remarks may have reignited tensions between Umno Youth and DAP, just as the “Allah socks” episode was beginning to die down.

Akmal had recently abandoned his campaign to boycott retail chain KK Mart after socks bearing the name “Allah” were discovered there.

DAP leaders had responded to his boycott call by showing solidarity with KK Mart and urging people to shop at the retail chain to show their support.

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