Today’s gathering of some 15000 people in Kuantan was probably the biggest environmental protest in Malaysian history.
At the very least, it would be comparable to the Bukit Merah protests in 1987-88. At the height of those protests, during court proceedings in 1988, some 10000-15000 turned up to show their opposition to the Asian Rare Earth plant, recalls Dr T Jayabalan, who has been involved in the field at both Bukit Merah and Gebeng, Kuantan.
But unlike Bukit Merah, the ethnic composition of the crowd in Kuantan this morning was much more diverse, coming from a broader cross-section of society. And unlike Bukit Merah, the protest drew in people from outside Kuantan. And this time around, there were other protesters in spirit: thousands of netizens on Twitter and Facebook expressed their solidarity with those in Kuantan this morning.
At the rally this morning, Anwar addressed the crowd and promised to cancel Lynas’ plant if Pakatan Rakyat won federal power – a pledge that must be kept.
The gathering this morning could mark the beginning of a new green movement. In this watershed year of 2012, Malaysians, it would seem, are moving up to a higher plane of environmental consciousness.
Himpunan Hijau also reminds us we must be more discerning in our choice of investments. Not all FDI is good for the country. We have to opt for a more sustainable development model that puts people before profits.