This is Najib speaking at the UN general assembly, where he delivered an impassioned speech about the need to oppose extremism. (Check out 2:45 in the video to see the other Malaysians at the UN.) All well and good, but will he oppose extremism, whether religious or racial, which threatens to tear us apart in Malaysia? We are watching, and so far not many are convinced by his resolve in reining in the bigots out to create trouble here.
In fact, I was expecting him to speak along these lines at the UN. His strong words against religious extremism would have been music to the ears of the US administration. Najib’s address takes place against the backdrop of an FBI probe into 1MDB while a US federal grand jury is examining allegations of corruption involving Najib Razak, and people close to him.
Here you can see that the hall was more than half empty:
This is happening at a time when Malaysia is under pressure to get on board the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. See below:
Most people are in the dark about what the TPP is all about and whether it would be in the best interests of the nation. And that is precisely the idea – the main reason why TPP negotiations are held in secret is to keep the public in the dark about its impact and what we are giving up.
If you are not convinced that the TPP will leave Malaysia worse off, read what Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz and senior economist Adam Hersh say in their appeal to the government to put the interests of ordinary Malaysians uppermost.
Economists at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD, forecast that Malaysia would actually be a net trade loser as a result of joining TPP, with difference between the value Malaysia produces for export and the value it imports, the trade balance, declining by US$17 billion (RM75 billion) per year as a result of the agreement. In other words, the TPP would make Malaysia worse off by the most straightforward of economic measures.
These trade agreements are not free-trade agreements, but managed trade agreements, and typically managed for the interests of corporate interests.
And while the name Trans-Pacific Partnership suggests a “partnership”, it is a special kind of partnership, where one country, the US, calls most of the shots, giving into other “partners” the bare minimum necessary to secure compliance from their corporate and other special interests.
Not surprisingly, the big winners are corporate interests in the US, the big losers are ordinary citizens, both in the US and elsewhere.
Even the Malay Economic Action Council says Malaysia should withdraw from the negotiations, the final stages (at the ministerial level) of which will be held in Atlanta.
So why are we still thinking about the TPP?
The Diplomat quotes a scholar as saying Najib’s survival would not only be good for the TPP, but arguably the US-Malaysia relationship more generally.
At a time when Najib is fighting for his political survival, it comes to this: On the one hand, the US wants the TPP signed. On the other, there is that matter of the FBI and grand jury probes.
So what happens now? Maybe a referendum on the TPP should be held, or at the very least, MPs should be allowed to vote according to their conscience on whether Malaysia should go down this path. At least, that would stimulate a national debate on this issue, which has received scant coverage. (Why is it that the most important issues e.g. combating climate change and analysing the TPP receive the least coverage in the media?)
We should not leave it to a few people at the top to decide something that would have far-reaching and long-term implications for the people.