KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 — “Hey, hey, tell your ‘Barat’ friends, this no good; TPPA very bad,” a PAS supporter told tourists onboard the hop-on-hop-off bus that was passing thousands protesting against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement here today.
Excited holidaymakers immediately whipped out their cameras and smartphones and started taking pictures of the demonstrators waving anti-TPP placards at the rally in the city centre here that was dominated by supporters and members of the Islamist opposition party.
“What is it and why is it bad, mate?” a middle-aged tourist asked, in his thick Australian accent.
“TPPA — our party say bad, ‘tak baik’, no good,” replied the young man dressed in PAS’ signature green and a kopiah.
He laughed as his fellow PAS supporters teased his poor command of the English language. Then he continued marching with other protesters to rally against the US-driven free trade treaty that will be tabled in Parliament next week.
The young man was not the only one who seemed clueless as to how the Pacific treaty would affect them and Malaysia, apart from claiming that the TPP was yet another “American agenda”.
Other protesters that Malay Mail Online interviewed could not specify why they opposed the TPP, a complex trade agreement, and could only point to PAS’ objection against it.
A Malay protester, who declined to be named, said the TPP held too much unforeseen destruction. He also believed that it was a Jewish agenda.
“TPPA has a Jewish agenda and in the Al-Quran, it is said that the Israeli Jews and the Christians will attack in this form. This group is not satisfied with Muslims so they will execute things like these,” he told Malay Mail Online, adding that he learned about the trade pact from PAS.
A farmer based in Penang, who refused to provide his real name, came alone to Kuala Lumpur with a friend who offered to drive him to the rally that police estimate was attended by between 5,000 and 7,000 people.
“I am scared. I read about it in the papers and also attended talks by PAS. In our party, we were told that this TPPA will be bad for our economy. I am afraid for my rights, my future,” the frail-looking man told Malay Mail Online when met.
A 27-year-old PAS member, who only wanted to be known as Shakil, criticised the secrecy of the TPP, even though the text of the agreement was released last November.
“There is a clause in TPPA that states that if the law in Malaysia clashes with TPPA, then TPPA will overrule it,” he added.
A 24-year old student called Nota said there were more negative than positive elements in the TPP.
“Most of it is negative and the positive ones only benefit the top people,” she said. “The normal people don’t benefit from it”.
Non-PAS members who joined the rally said they were worried about the transparency of the deal that would be tabled and debated in the Dewan Rakyat next week.
“I think we need to speak up because we are not happy with how the TPPA is being rushed through. It all stems from lack of faith in the present government. I don’t believe they are acting in our best interest,” said a 48-year-old Chinese woman, when asked about her reasons for rejecting the TPP.
Another protester, Hilary Chiew, also echoed the woman’s sentiments.
“The government hasn’t been consulting transparently and we’re not very confident with what our government has done so far,” Chiew, 48, said.
She also accused the government of not listening to TPP critics and said officials were not sincere in their public engagements.