TPP : Five Questions to Malaysian MPs – Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz

Source: FMT News

The Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (ABIM) filed a Judicial Review seeking a court order to stop Putrajaya from signing the TPPA on the basis that the agreement would cause adverse effects on the sovereignty of the Federal Constitution and our domestic legislation.

FMT News file pic
FMT News file pic


Finally, after more than two years of mystery, the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement- “America’s biggest secret” has been revealed to the public following persuasions by the NGOs and coalition group #bantahTPPA.

Public protests, awareness campaigns and conventions have been organized time and again but none of them have succeeded in opening the eyes of the Malaysian government to the concerns of the general public on the new trade regime. This prompted the group led by Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (ABIM) to file a Judicial Review on the 4th of November 2015 seeking a court order to stop Putrajaya from signing the TPP Agreement on the basis that the agreement would cause adverse effects on the sovereignty of the Federal Constitution and our domestic legislation.

The suit was filed with the belief that the Judiciary as the supreme interpreter of the Federal Constitution would take a position in protecting the basic structure of the Federal Constitution. However, despite all the concerns expressed, the application for a Judicial Review was rejected by the High Court on the ground that the trade agreement was yet to be signed.

The Role of the Legislature

It is now up for the legislature to voice their concerns on the adverse impacts of the TPP. Although it is a prerogative right of the executive i.e. the Prime Minister to sign the TPP, the statement by MITI to have a special parliamentary session for the TPP to be presented and debated assured a space for the MPs to voice their opinions regarding the matter.

1-Do our MPs fully understand and care about the TPP?

Given the limited period of time before the parliamentary session begins, it poses a real challenge for our MPs to be well-prepared for any debate or discussion concerning the TPP. Are they making the effort to actually read the entire text of the TPP? Apart from the fact that the TPP text itself consists of 6000 pages, have they come across all the documents of the negotiation process which had begun since 2013, along with two documents on cost and benefit analyses by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) and consultant Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) Malaysia?

It is unfortunate for Malaysians if the MPs have no interest to treat the issue with paramount importance to begin with. People now are looking to the MPs to offer assurances and support concerning the impact of the trade regime on our country and the people as a whole.

2- Do our MPs understand the role of the legislature?

The ruling party in Malaysia uses the Chief Whip system to ensure that each MP votes in accordance with the party’s policy when necessary. Although the Chief Whip rarely issues official directives, government MPs often tend to follow the party’s policy, risking its punishment if they dare to act in contradiction.

The scenario is totally against the principle of liberty and democracy to ensure the system of “checks and balances” as firmly written by Montesquieu “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.” (Book XI Chap. II)

In reality, internal conflicts pertaining to a political party’s policies have posed as a hindrance to the MPs who try to uphold the separation of power doctrine, having been clearly demonstrated in the fact that most MPs from the ruling party who contravened the government’s stance in Parliament have been sanctioned. The MPs must firmly fight for the doctrine of separation of power or risk the parliament becoming a dysfunctional institution in safeguarding the interest of the people.

3- Do our MPs think like statesmen or merely politicians?

The TPP Agreement has a long term impact to all Malaysians from one generation to another. From thorough and in-depth discussions, the TPP has shown negative impacts towards the people at large. The whole aspects of lives of the people including culture, cost of living, employment, medication, and environment are expected to be affected negatively when the TPP binds Malaysia, and the effects will last for generations to come.

We are the current generation who have a choice regarding the direction our country will take. It’s either we leave our descendants an independent and better Malaysia, or a “Malaysia for sale” that may destroy their future.

As the famous quote goes, “A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.” Where do our MPs stand?

4- Will our MPs endorse the amendments of Malaysian laws to compromise with foreign investors?

Soon after the TPP is signed, the Malaysian government shall be given a period of two years to deal with it according to our own national procedures and domestic laws. Any provision in our own legal system which contravenes the TPP will be amended so that it fully follows the aspirations of the TPP. This will include jurisdiction of the court where the Malaysian court no longer has the power to decide on any disputes between foreign investors and the Malaysian government. The power of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) stated in the section B of Investment Chapter clearly speaks for itself.

The basic structure of the Federal Constitution, which is not limited to the issue of Islamic administration and special position of the Malays and Natives of Sabah and Sarawak respectively enshrined under Article 3 and Article 153, shall be affected, and specific amendments to the current structure will surely take place so that any of our national policies will not result in a loss suffered by foreign investors.

Within the two years of ratification period, MPs will have no choice but to endorse any amendments of our legislation that may affect the foreign investors whereas the laws themselves are essential to protect the interest of the Malaysian people.

5- Do our MPs turn up as Malaysian reps or foreign investors’ agents?

The “people first” mantra has always been a major theme in the manifesto of any political party and certainly people who turned out and voted for the 222 Members of Parliament had done so believing that they would honour their promise to safeguard the interests of the people.

Hence, in deciding the TPP, the MPs must walk the talk by taking the interest of the people as paramount and with utmost consideration. The mandate owned by the MPs to vote on the TPP is not obtained but given by the people. Unlike foreign investors who come and go, the role of the people to determine the future of MPs is permanent. Thus, it is important for the MPs regardless of any ideology to offer assurances to speak up based on the interests of the people rather than those of foreign investors.

Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz is Secretary-General of the Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (ABIM)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *