KUALA LUMPUR: Almost 5,000 Malaysians staged a three-hour long protest on Saturday (Jan 23) against plans to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), just days before parliament is due to open a debate on the free trade pact.
Led by opposition party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), non-governmental organisations and student unions, protesters armed with banners chanted anti-TPP slogans as they gathered in central Kuala Lumpur’s Padang Merbok.
Prime Minister Najib Razak's government has argued that Malaysia, which relies on exports of commodities, minerals and electronics, cannot afford to stay out of a trade zone whose participants account for 40 per cent of the global economy.
However, opponents of the TPP said they fear the pact would compromise national interests and favour foreign multinational companies. A special parliament session will convene from Tuesday to Thursday, to debate and vote on the controversial TPP bill.
Although the bill is likely to pass given that the ruling Barisan National has a parliamentary majority, protestors have said that they hope members of parliament or lawmakers will vote with their conscience and not gamble away the country’s future.
“What the government says is always wrong," said Mr Hafiz Rahmat, a technician in an IT company. "(Take) GST. The government promised that prices won’t go up but prices have (all) gone up.”
“The government always lies to us, that’s why the young people don’t believe what (they) say anymore," he added.
A protester at Malaysia's anti-TPP rally in central Kuala Lumpur (Photo: Melissa Goh)
Another protestor, trader from Penang Iszuree Ibrahim, said he is worried that small and medium scale traders like him will be wiped out under the TPP.
“Once Malaysia opens up to penetration from (America), most of our traders will die,” he said.
Some members of the opposition also believe that the TPP would put the affirmative action policies for the country’s ethnic Muslim majority at stake.
“We are afraid our country will be sold and pawned to other stronger countries,” said Mr Azrul, an undergraduate student from a local university. “We have to unite to save our country.”
The rally ended peacefully with no casualties or incidents reported.