Green goes with Yellow!

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Why should we be surprised that the Green Movement has aligned itself with Bersih? It was only a matter of time before that happened.

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The ‘Earth Charter’.
A paragraph from the charter encapsulates the vision for the new green movement. “Let ours be the time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.”

M’sia’s green movement goes political

July 22, 2012

The green movement is now enmeshed with the yellow-shirted electoral reform push.

FEATURE

By Anil Netto

PENANG: Three years ago, Sherly Hue lived the life of a typical career woman in Kuala Lumpur, working as a marketing executive promoting building materials. But one day, she received a phone call from her worried parents that would forever change her life.

Hue’s parents, who were looking after her four-month-old son in Bukit Koman, a small village of 300 families in Raub, in the central state of Pahang, requested that he be relocated to Kuala Lumpur. A gold mining company had started operations in Raub and her parents felt it was no longer safe for the baby to remain in the village.

In 2008, a US expert in mining contamination had visited the area and concluded that the gold mine did not comply with international standards and could cause long-term contamination. The facility, only 200-300 m away from the village, uses the ‘carbon-in-leach’ method and consumes 400 tonnes of sodium cyanide a year.

In Kuala Lumpur, Hue sat up and took note. ”I searched on the Internet for cyanide in gold mining and found a lot of cases and accidents in many countries – even without spillages.”

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Hue, now 34, is vice-chairperson of the Pahang Raub Anti-Cyanide Gold Mining Committee and a key figure in Malaysia’s blossoming environmental movement.

On Oct 9 last year, the group participated in a landmark gathering, dubbed Himpunan Hijau 1.0 (Green Gathering), at a beach in Kuantan, capital of Pahang, to endorse the ‘Earth Charter’.

A paragraph from the charter encapsulated the vision for the new green movement. “Let ours be the time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.”

Among civil society groups and activists supporting the launch were those opposing a controversial Australian rare earth refinery run by Lynas Corporation in Kuantan and those opposing high tension power cables in Rawang, Selangor. Also  attending was the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) and a group of indigenous ‘Orang Asli’ people.

Four months later, on Feb 26, a second gathering, Himpunan Hijau 2.0, was held, focusing largely on the campaign to oppose the Lynas Corporation refinery. This time, some 15,000 people from all over the country converged on a field in Kuantan in what was the largest environmental gathering in Malaysian history.

But even these large gatherings were topped by Himpunan Hijau 3.0, when some 20,000 ‘green shirts’ gathered on April 28 in the shadow of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre towers in an event timed to coincide with the third Bersih rally to push for electoral reforms.

The splash of Himpunan Hijau greenies in a sea of over 200,000 yellow-shirted Bersih supporters captured national attention.

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The Himpunan Hijau and Bersih rallies have not escaped the attention of the authorities. A senior police ‘special branch’ assistant director was reported as saying the police were concerned over opposition parties and non-government organisations which “play up controversial issues and incite the public to hate the government before the general election”.

He said opposition parties were supporting the Bersih, green and other protests with one eye on the coming polls, which must be held by next June at the latest, though the prime minister may call a snap general election anytime.

Khim Pa said the green movement is now enmeshed with the yellow-shirted electoral reform push. “The whole country has woken up to this problem of environmental degradation.”

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