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Ancestors ‘join’ thousands in Pengerang rally

 | September 30, 2012

Ancestors' photographs were placed at the rally venue in a symbolic move to oppose the proposed grave relocation.

FULL REPORT

KOTA TINGGI: More than 3,000 people gathered at Pengerang, Johor today for the Himpunan Hijau Lestari Pengerang rally against a massive petro-chemical plant, with some local residents bringing ancestral photographs to the scene.

Clad in green, the protesters started to gather at Dataran Sungai Rengit since early morning, to the  backdrop of a huge lobster statue at the square entrance.

By the time the rally began at 10am, the squre was packed with protesters holding placards that read, among others, “Don’t wait until our villages are pawned”, “Taiwan treats it as rubbish, we take it as treasure”, “Defend sustainable Pengerang”.

Empty chairs were also placed in front of the stage where 10 local residents later placed their ancestors photographs on the chairs in a symbolic move to oppose the proposed grave relocation.

“The authorities always say there are only a few people protesting against this project, but today not only the entire village has come out, we even invited our ancestors to come,” said Gabungan NGO Pengerang vice chairman Sim Seng San.

The residents also carried the photographs to the stage, while some performed brief prayers to their ancestors later.

Sim told FMT that it was the residents’ idea to bring the photographs to the rally.

“Unlike urban people buying property, the local folks have laid their roots and foundation in Pengerang for generations.

“Our ancestors built it for decades, but it vanishes now on an order from the authorities,” he said.

The Johor edition of Himpunan Hijau rally was held today following residents’ opposition to the RM60 billion Petronas’ Refinery and Petro-chemical Integrated Project (Rapid).

Besides posing potential health hazards, the residents are also upset over the massive land acquisition plan which will see more than eight villages and 8,094ha of lands being taken up.

A slew of activists such as Himpunan Hijau chairman Wong Tack, Bersih steering committee member Wong Chin Huat, and politicians such as Johor DAP chairman Boo Cheng Hau, PAS vice president Salahuddin Ayub, Johor PAS commissioner Mahfodz Mohamed, central committee member Mazlan Aliman and Johor PKR chairman Chua Jui Meng attended the rally.

They led the crowd to break into occasional chants of “Hidup Rakyat”, “No to Rapid”, “Bersih” throughout the two-hour protest.

Absent MP

The organiser also kept a spare chair for BN Pengerang parliamentarian Azalina Othman who did not turn up.

“I thought she said she want to challenge me for a debate (on this issue), but she does not even come today,” Salahuddin took a swipe at her on the stage.

Meanwhile, Kg Sungai Kapal resident Kasran Dollah, whose home has been earmarked for acquisition, told the crowd that the compensation given was too little as compared to the losses incurred.

“They only offered RM2.8 per square feet for agricultural land. If I have one acre of land, I would only be given RM120,000, which is not even enough to buy a house that costs RM150,000,” he said.

He added that the residents would also lose their source of income once their agricultural lands are taken.

Johor PKR chairman and party vice president Chua said that Pakatan would close down the Petronas plant if it comes to power in the next general election.

The rally ended peacefully at noon, with emcee Hishammuddin Rais leading the crowd to recite Earth Charter, a pledge to conserve the environment.

Also read:

PKR to scrap Rapid when it gets to Putrajaya


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