PETALING JAYA, July 20 — Sabah police hauled up 14 activists for questioning today after picking them up during a protest against the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
According to a tweet from rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), 11 were arrested at the protest while the remaining three were picked up outside the Karamunsing police station in the state capital.
“14 detained 4questioning @ Karamunsing Police Station, Kota Kinabalu. 11 arrested at protest,3 outside balai#bantahTPPA,” @SUARAMtweets wrote on the microblogging site.
“There are lawyers already at IPD Karamunsing in KK. #bantahTPPA,” it tweeted again.
News portal The Malaysian Insider quoted Kota Kinabalu OCPD Asst Comm Jauteh Dikun as confirming the arrests and saying the group was taken in to undergo drug tests.
“We suspect that the 14 may have been under the influence of drugs, so we arrested them and took them back for tests,” he was quoted as saying, and adding that the test results should be known by 3pm.
The TPPA, which involves Malaysia, the US and nine other countries, will kick off its 18th round of negotiations at Sutera Harbour Resort in Kota Kinabalu on Monday and is expected to be signed by the end of the year.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers have said that the TPPA would hike up the cost of medicine as the sale of generic drugs would be restricted under intellectual property rules, while the country’s sovereignty would be threatened by foreign investors who would be allowed to sue the government if it drafted public policies that were not in their favour.
Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also recently shot down the TPPA, saying that the deal, like other previous bilateral agreements, did not appear to favour Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir, who is a vocal critic of the US, said that the TPPA was “another attempt by America to let their huge corporations penetrate the domestic markets of the small countries, in particular government procurements”.
But during a protest outside Parliament by several civil society groups earlier this week, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed disputed the criticisms and insisted that Malaysia’s sovereignty would be protected in the TPPA.
“We will defend the sovereignty of our country,” Mustapa told reporters in Parliament shortly after the protest.
“It’s still under discussion,” he said. “Nothing has been finalised yet.”
During the protest, the groups argued that the TPPA would be used as a tool by the US to colonise Malaysia.
The protestors, led by Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), called for the postponement of discussions on the free trade agreement, for the TPPA to be debated in Parliament, as well as for a cost-benefit analysis.
”TPPA is for US corporations and their cronies in Malaysia,” said PSM national chairman Dr Mohd Nasir Hashim.
“Without tariffs, the local industries will be destroyed,” he said, and added, “We will become a colony of America.”
The protesters chanted “Stop TPPA” and “US, get lost”, while holding placards with the words “TPPA Means Death” and “Patient Before Profit” amid relatively light security.
In Kota Kinabalu last Sunday, another protest against the TPPA was staged by PAS Youth and Gabungan NGO Menuntut Hak Rakyat Sabah (GEGAR).
According to local news portal Borneo Insider, the group, led by PAS Youth chief Lahirul Latigu and GEGAR coordinator Haryady Karmin labelled the TPPA a “mysterious agreement” between Malaysia and the 11 other countries involved.