by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published in The Malaysian Insider 25 June 2015

Hafidz Baharom responded to my comment on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) via an article published in The Malaysian Insider today, titled “On awkward TPPA news”.

A friend forwarded that article to me.

I admire his tenacity but I would like to suggest that he should do some homework before commenting on adult issues. The writing is full with mistakes.

I am an avid reader of The Malaysian Insider and was once a columnist there. I have a lot of respect for the journalists in the portal and I know quite a few of them personally.

I would like to suggest that the opinion editor of the portal should comb through submissions to ensure the veracity of the writings. Low quality articles do not reflect well on the quality of the portal.

Firstly, when did we at Ideas “quietly” invite a US trade ambassador? The fact was, we loudly and publicly announced that we are hosting the US Trade Representative for an open dialogue with the public, the media, civil society, and government agencies.

Second, Hafidz was too creative when he accused me of being against the National Education Blueprint. How can that be when I made contributions to its drafting too? There are weaknesses that I may have identified. But I am definitely not against it.

Third, no I have not forgotten about the cost benefit analysis promised by the government.

If Hafidz did some work before opening his mouth, he would know that the analysis will only be concluded later this year.

That’s why I did not comment on it. Unlike Hafidz, I do not dream up comments on things that do not exist.

Fourth, Hafidz claimed that the US Congress voted down a fast-track authority that Barack Obama needed in order to proceed.

Please Hafidz, do some physical movements to check your facts. The US Congress actually passed the fast track authority for Obama.

Fifth, if the TPPA negotiation were to be blamed for the strengthening of efforts to eradicate copyright and patent theft – what we used to call “lanun cetak rompak” – then I say well done.

This is a good thing. And if he links the passing of the Animal Welfare Act to TPPA, then that too is a good thing. Unless he wants to see more animals abused in Malaysia, of course.

Sixth, Hafidz wrote several allegations about the impacts of the TPPA. I have no idea how he can be so confident about the impact when the whole basis of his article is that he does not know what is being negotiated.

If you do not know the exact content, how then can you know the impact?

Seventh, he said that the government has not released any new information. Well, I have attended public briefings organised by the government and there were indeed new information disclosed every time.

But I did not see him at any of those public events. That aside, I am still not happy with the amount of information being released. But to say that no new information was released is a lie.

Yes, writing requires work, not just merely dreaming up stories. Otherwise you end up producing something like Hafidz’s article.

Let me make it clear that I have not decided whether or not I support the TPPA. I think there are pros and cons.

But I want Malaysia to continue negotiating for the best, and we only decide when we have the full picture.

We must make an informed decision and after exhausting all avenues to extract the most benefit from the deal.

And, Hafidz, you asked me if I still refuse “to call those in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) “idiots with pro-American” sympathies”.

Let me say that, unlike you, I will never insult our civil servants as “idiots with pro-American sympathies”. I disagree with many government policies.

I may disagree with their decisions. I may be angry at the secrecy. And I will continue to protest about the things I disagree with.

But, I will not flippantly call our civil servants “idiots with pro-American sympathies.”

They are standing up for our interests at the negotiation tables, including in front of America, and they deserve much more respect than that.

Once again, may I also suggest to The Malaysian Insider to perform proper quality assurance before publishing a submission. You are the first portal I usually open every morning and I, just like many other readers, do have high expectations.

So, Hafidz, please learn to be a bit more accurate in your writing. At the very least call me up to get clarifications, which is what good writers usually do.

Insya Allah one day you will become a writer with articles that might be a good read. – June 25, 2015.

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Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.

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