While International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed conducted a briefing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), around 30 people held a peaceful protest against it outside the university.
The protesters comprise representatives from student groups, political parties, and NGOs, who had gathered to voice their objections to the TPPA in front of USM's Sungai Dua gate.
The brief protest began at 11.30am and ended around 11.53am, while the audience in Dewan Syed Putra - where the briefing was organised - was being treated to a viewing of pro-Umno movie ‘Hati Malaya’ by director and producer Suhaimi Baba, before Mustapa’s arrival at the venue.
The protesters held up banners, among which read: ‘ Mahasiswa Tolak TPPA 100% (Students Reject TPPA 100%)’, ‘Malaysia is not for sale’, ‘People Before Profit’, and ‘Don't Trade Away Our Lives’.
Also present at the event - which was kicked off with USM student Lee Chung Lun reading a statement rejecting the TPPA - were Ikatan Mahasiswa spokesperson Jefry Musa, Machang Bubuk lawmaker Lee Khai Loon, Consumers Association of Penang's S Mageswari, Aliran's Anil Netto, Nur Fitri Amir from Bantah TPPA, and representatives from Parti Amanah Negara and PKR Youth.
Jefry ( photo ) questioned the sincerity of the government in coming to USM during the exam period, as almost all of its students would not be able to make it for the talk then.
"Why does the government refuse to discuss and consult the people properly about the TPPA?" he said.
Additionally, Nur Fitri pointed out that the agreement takes care of corporate interests more than the public interest.
'Corporate interests bigger priority for TPPA'
"For instance, it is no longer compulsory for foreign investors to conduct technology transfers and they can sue the government if local rules and regulations which protect the environment seem to threaten their interests," she said.
"If the government can't even protect the public’s health in Kuantan (from the threat of bauxite mining), how can they do so after more protection is given to foreign firms?" she asked.
Moreover, Mageswari ( photo ) and Parti Sosialis Malaysia's Choo Chon Kai both concurred that the TPPA is a "new form of colonisation that sells off the country".
Choo claimed that the nation is being forced to sign such an agreement, which is “not fair to the people".
"We should not allow the so-called ‘superpowers’ to bully us," he stressed, and urged all Malaysians to attend a mass rally against the TPPA in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 23.
Meanwhile, the protest was mildly interrupted by Gabung Perwakilan Melayu Pulau Pinang rep Ridzuan Mohd Azuddin, who tried to pose questions to the protesters.
However, the group requested him to allow them to continue their protest, and to "respect their activity".
Ridzuan ( photo ) later told the media that there must be "hidden hands" behind the group.
"Otherwise, they should just listen to Mustapa's explaination and ask questions intellectually during the briefing session," he said.
Students had earlier attended a similar briefing on the TPPA, and have posed questions on the matter as well.
"I also came here to listen. Even though I can't understand 100 percent, but at least I am able to digest 60 percent. Such provocation (must have) hidden hands at the back.
"Among them (the protesters) are professionals and doctorate students. Why can't they attend the dialogue and learn the issue properly? Why do they need to protest? Their struggle is a waste of time," he argued.