An OldTown White Coffee outlet. The company's chairman Datuk Dr Ahmed Tasir says their outlets have always been halal-compliant as per standards set by Jakim. – Pic courtesy of OldTown White Coffee website, February 2, 2015.
Caught up in a storm following an alleged racist statement from a Cabinet minister, OldTown White Coffee insisted today that the food and beverages served in all their outlets are halal.
In a statement issued this evening, OldTown Berhad chairman Datuk Dr Ahmed Tasir said the accusation that they are non-halal is not true and was made by an individual or individuals who are misinformed.
Ahmed said the Halal certification is a very thorough and rigorous process and in order to maintain this certification, all equipment, ingredients, suppliers and cleaning procedures must meet the halal requirements set by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).
"Our central kitchens continue to meet Jakim's halal requirements," Ahmed said in a statement.
The cafe chain was singled out earlier today in an alleged racist statement made by Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on his Facebook account, urging Malays to boycott Chinese businesses so as to force them to lower the prices of goods.
The chain was also alleged to have been linked to Perak DAP adviser Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham.
"Malays are still refusing to boycott (OldTown White Coffee) what more when its owner is said to be the Ngeh family of Perak who are known to be anti-Islam.
"As long as the Malays don't change, the Chinese will take the opportunity to oppress the Malays," Ismail had said.
Ahmed said they were not affiliated with any political party or politician, adding that it was a public listed company on the main board of Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd and that its ownership information was readily available online.
"The board of directors of OldTown Bhd can also confirm that they are not active members of any political party," Ahmed added.
DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, responding to the furore created by Ismail Sabri's Facebook post, said he was told by Ngeh, who is also MP for Beruas, that he had previously tweeted his denial over having any shares in OldTown Bhd.
"But Ismail Sabri just ignored Ngeh's earlier denials in order to pump racial and religious vitriol and poison to create a tsunami in Malaysia's multi-racial and multi-religious waters," Lim had said.
In his post, Ismail had said that Malay consumers had a role to play in helping the government fight profiteers by using their collective power to lower the price of goods.
"Forgive me for sharing my views, but besides the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism, which uses the Price Control Act and the Anti-Profiteering Act to act against traders who raise their prices indiscriminately, the greatest power lies with the consumers.
"The majority of consumers are Malay, Chinese are a minority, if the Malays boycott their businesses, they will surely have no choice but to reduce their prices," he had said in a post on the social networking site.
Ismail also took Malay consumers to task for continuing to patronise Chinese outlets "even though their halal certification is suspect" and even though some of these outlets have had action taken against them. He did not specify which businesses these were.
Ngeh threatened to sue Ismail for claiming he owned shares in the OldTown White Coffee cafe franchise and that he was anti-Islam unless the Barisan Nasional politician retracts the claims.
In an immediate response, however, Ismail said he will not apologise because he did not specifically refer to the Perak DAP adviser.
He said his remarks posted on Facebook did not specifically mention "Ngeh Koo Ham".
"Ngeh... Is he the only one in Perak? I did not mention Ngeh Koo Ham. I said 'said to be'," Ismail told The Malaysian Insider in a WhatsApp message. (The Malaysian Insider)