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Malaysians have the right to protest and boycott, says US ambassador
Published on: Tuesday, April 02, 2024
By: FMT, Lynelle Tham
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Malaysians have the right to protest and boycott, says US ambassador
US ambassador Edgard D Kagan speaks to local media during a round table discussion at his residence in Kuala Lumpur.
PETALING JAYA: The US supports the right of Malaysians to engage in peaceful protests at its embassy as a means of expressing dissatisfaction with Israel over the Gaza conflict, says its ambassador Edgard D Kagan.

Kagan, who presented his credentials to Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Ibrahim on March 20, said he understood the practical reality of Malaysians’ stance on the Hamas-Israel conflict.

“We strongly support the right to peaceful protest and, obviously, our preference would be that they do not see us as the way to express dissatisfaction with Israel because we are not Israel.

“But we also understand that that’s the reality that we are operating in,” he told reporters during a media round table session today.

He also expressed appreciation for the support and cooperation of the government and the police in ensuring the security of embassy facilities and personnel during the protests, despite it being a “less than ideal” situation.

Last year, Malaysians staged three pro-Palestine protests near the US embassy in a show of solidarity with Palestinians and to condemn Israel for its aggression against Gaza.

Two protests were held in October, with approximately 1,500 protesters marching to the embassy. Another group, Sekretariat Solidariti Palestin (SSP), attempted to initiate a six-day blockade outside the embassy.

SSP is also set to organise another pro-Palestine rally on Friday in conjunction with International Quds Day, which is held every year in various parts of the world on the last Friday of Ramadan to express support for Palestinians and protest Israel’s actions against them.

The civil society group said it expects 10,000 people to march from the Tabung Haji building at Jalan Tun Razak to the US embassy.

On Malaysians boycotting US-linked products, Kagan said it was also their right to peacefully express their views in this manner.

However, he said the intended targets were not directly affected.

“Instead, the ones directly affected are the two main outlets that are being boycotted. One is owned by Malaysians, one is owned by Saudis.

“The people who are suffering as a result are the Malaysian employees. There may be some symbolic satisfaction in doing it, but ultimately, the people that it really hurts aren’t Israelis and it’s not really the US,” he said, describing the situation as “unfortunate”.

Sparked by the Israel-Palestine conflict, boycott campaigns have been hitting Western brands in Malaysia such as Starbucks and McDonald’s.

On March 4, Berjaya Corp Bhd founder Vincent Tan called on the public to stop boycotting Starbucks Malaysia, saying it only hurts the Malaysians running the company.

The business tycoon said that up to 85% of Starbucks Malaysia’s employees are Muslims and that there are no foreigners working in the company’s head office.

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