Today has been an inspiring day for People Power in Malaysia.
Two major successes in one day show we can never underestimate the power within ordinary people to bring about change.
The first was the fishing community’s successful appeal against the Department of Environment’s approval of the environmental impact assessment report for the three-island mega-project. The appeals board found that the plan, involving 4,500 acres of land reclamation in Penang, violated the then-2020 Penang Structure Plan, which was in force.
Penang NGOs and many others had campaigned hard against this project over the last few years because they know it will destroy the fishing waters off southern Penang Island – a vital source of wild-caught fish for the state.
For this success, we congratulate Zakaria Ismail (photo above) and the fishing community, the excellent legal team, the #PenangTolakTambak (Penang Rejects Reclamation) campaign, Penang Forum and all the activists and volunteers who rallied behind them.
Hopefully, the Penang state government will put an end to this deeply unpopular mega-project.
The second success today came when the Selangor state government bowed to immense public pressure and confirmed it was cancelling its plan to develop 54% of the 992ha north Kuala Langat forest reserve.
This is a victory for civil society campaigning and for the pressure exerted by the larger public to stop such ecologically damaging ‘development’ projects.
The decision came only hours after activists from the Defend North Kuala Langat Forest Reserve coalition (made up of 15 NGOs) managed to pass through police roadblocks to hand over a memorandum to the Selangor state government office.
In each of the two campaigns, online petitions collected over 100,000 signatures. The petition to reject the Penang three-island project bagged 129,000 signatures while the petition to oppose the north Kuala Langat forest reserve development collected 102,000. Other related petitions drew tens of thousands more signatures.
At a time when many people have lost hope or are feeling disempowered, these two victories should tell us that together, we can make a difference when politicians, even those elected on a reform platform, let us down.
We should never underestimate the capacity of ordinary people to do great things, even if at first, they might seem to be in a minority.
The politicians driving such mega-projects must realise they can no longer take the public for granted.Aliran executive committee
8 September 2021