KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — Coinciding with the Global Climate Strike protest taking place worldwide, more than 350 people took part in a march here today calling for action against climate change and to hold the powerful accountable for the destruction of the Earth’s environment.
The kilometre-long march which spanned from the Sogo shopping mall to Sultan Abdul Samad building in Dataran Merdeka, saw people from diverse backgrounds donning respirators and face masks in a seemingly ironic scene against the backdrop of the ongoing haze pollution.
Prominent activist Hishamuddin Rais who is among the first speakers to address the crowd, called on those present, especially the younger generations to continue the struggle for a cleaner Earth in the future.
“It does not matter whether it is the old or new government, you have the right to overthrow whichever government who isn’t concerned about the climate,” he said through a loudspeaker.
Around 4.30pm, several activists began to form a human chain at the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman intersection, restricting vehicle access to the street to provide a safe passage for the crowd to march towards Dataran Merdeka.
Among the civil societies involved were Klima Action Malaysia (Kamy), Amnesty International Malaysia and Greenpeace Malaysia.
The four official demands of the march were to “smash” the wall of political and media silence on the climate crisis; declare a climate emergency for financial and policy mobilisation; raise awareness among Malaysians about the climate crisis and raise the visibility of the climate narrative from developing countries.
The march was filled with colourful artwork, placards and banners, some of those observed include “Clean air for all”, “We can’t breathe money”, “No other system except ecosystem”. Another one stated “Worst housewarming party ever!!!”
Despite today’s attendance, Kamy co-founder Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar said she had hoped more people would have participated but conceded that the hazy weather may have discouraged others.
Hinting at possible rallies in the future, Ili Nadiah said there will definitely more demonstration against the ecological and environmental deregulation taking place in Malaysia.
She said Kamy will also bring the issue at hand, including signed petitions to the Parliament when it convenes in October.
Meanwhile those present included Subang MP and PKR lawmaker Wong Chen who said he was attending the march as a concerned citizen.
“We would like to see the burden shift to the companies. I will bring it up in Parliament to suggest the use of satellite imagery to reveal areas blanketed with haze.
“We will then ask the corporations to defend themselves. They have to disprove their involvement,” he told reporters when asked about the protesters’ demands.
When met on the sidelines, Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan (JKOAK) founder and indigenous rights activist Mustafa Along said the government must not practice climate change denial but do what is necessary to address it.
“We must further improve existing policies because we know climate change is indeed happening and more people should be made aware of it,” he said.
The demonstration eventually dispersed at 6.40pm.
The Global Climate Strike, spearheaded by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, will take place ahead of the United Nations Emergency Climate Summit in New York on September 23.
To reduce her carbon emissions footprint while travelling from Sweden to the United States, Thunberg chose not to fly and instead spent two weeks sailing across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions sailboat.
Elsewhere millions of people from the Pacific Islands to Asia, Europe to Africa and the Americas are marching for urgent action on climate breakdown to demand their governments take urgent steps to tackle the climate crisis and prevent an environmental catastrophe.