KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh today said he is glad the government will not act on the groundless exploitation claims over the participation of 11 students of SJK(T) Sg Ara in a recent climate crisis protest in Penang.
The lawyer and federal lawmaker added that it would be discriminatory to stop children from expressing their views on the basis they were under-aged.
“The matter should not have surfaced in the first place as there is no evidence that these children were being exploited in any way by their school or by other interested parties,” he said in a statement in response to Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching’s assurance Tuesday that no action will be taken against the child protesters.
Ramkarpal said exploitation and the freedom of expression of children are two different things.
“In this case, the children ought not to have been discouraged from expressing their views on a valid issue, even if those views are detrimental to the government”.
He acknowledged that the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 generally prohibits the participation of children below age 15, but said it ran counter to the country’s supreme law and is ageist.
“However, such a prohibition is unconstitutional as it is clearly contrary to the right of freedom of speech and assembly guaranteed under our Federal Constitution, freedoms which apply to all irrespective of age,” he said.
Ramkarpal hoped the SJK (T) Sg Ara students would not be put off by the exploitation claim, but would continue their efforts to raise greater awareness about climate change.
The children and their parents had participated in a protest organised by NGOs Klimate Action Utama Malaysia and Klima Utara Malaysia at a Bayan Baru Ramadan bazaar after schooling hours last week.
The protest was held in line with the Global Climate Strike movement, also known as Fridays for Future, when reportedly hundreds of thousands of school students worldwide walked out of class to urge their respective governments to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The global movement was inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg who had held weekly protest against climate change.
According to the Fridays for Future Facebook page, more than 1.8 million young people from 2,350 cities of 125 countries took part in the Global Strike for Climate on May 24.