THE country’s system of Halal certification, respected worldwide for decades was put under scrutiny in recent weeks.
Jakim has been put in the centre of the meat cartel controversy as they were the authority in charge of issuing halal certification for food products. This is so very unbecoming as blaming is a defence mechanism that we use as a denial in order to preserve our sense of dignity and avoiding awareness of the issues. The implementation of halal certification is governed by the Trade Description Act and Orders related thereto.
The Act empowers Jakim as competent authority in the issuance of halal logo. This is rightly so, as an authority is required to guarantee that the products are genuinely halal in compliance with Shariah principles. However, JAKIM can only carry out inspections to ensure compliance. Any infringement may only result in the withdrawal of Jakim halal certificate. Jakim cannot exercise enforcement power, as the main player under the Act is KPDNHEP (Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry) whilst Jakim merely testifies as witnesses.
Furthermore, the law does not impose an obligation that all food are marked halal. Traders and manufacturers apply for certification voluntarily. If they choose not to apply, but opt to forge certification, certainly Jakim could hardly be blamed. In the same way that we do not blame Bank Negara for the forged currency floating, so too can we blame Jakim for the forged halal certification. Apart from KPDNHEP, the blame equally lies on the Customs, PDRM and the local authorities who have halal execution power in their by-laws.
The consumption of halal food is a fundamental right of Muslims under the Constitution, yet as of today our right to get halal food is not strictly guaranteed. The Malay Consultative Council (MCM) should work towards that direction, rather than admonish a Muslim authority, albeit Jakim.
One unfortunate shortcoming of Jakim was their delayed reaction in "setting the record straight". Unfortunately, the world is now "forced" to deal with the "game of perception". Keeping quiet, delayed response or failure to anticipate and manage negative perceptions may be at any organisation’s detriment.
This is not the first time that Jakim has been put under scrutiny for matters which were not directly under their purview. In this case however, Jakim must understand that the word "Halal" in itself will pull them into the "fray" regardless of their involvement.
Hence, Jakim should at least invest in effective communications and perception management team which would do them a lot of much-deserved justice.