GEORGE TOWN: A city councillor today accused environmental groups of exploiting underaged children in their protest against climate change and the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) at a Ramadan bazaar in Bayan Baru last week.
Penang Island City Council (MBPP) member Vino Dini Chandragason said the groups, Klimate Action Utara Malaysia and Klima Action Malaysia, had abused their role as NGOs by using children to get their message across.
The two groups had protested last Friday together with 11 children from SJK (T) Sungai Ara who were commended as “eco-warriors” by Education Minister Maszlee Malik.
However, Vino said using children to forward their cause was clearly against the Child Act 2001.
“I am saddened that these NGOs are abusing their power and status by involving underaged children below 12 to represent their groups’ dissatisfaction with PTMP.
“This is despite many dialogues held by the Penang chief minister with NGOs, explaining that the projects are important for the future of the state and to resolve crippling traffic jams,” she told the MBPP council meeting at the city hall today.
She also questioned how the children had received approval from their school to participate in the protest while wearing their school T-shirts.
She urged the police to look into the matter and to ensure that such protests are held legally.
The PTMP is the Penang government’s plan for a network of highways, public transport and other modes of transport at a cost of RM46 billion. It will be funded through the creation of three islands south of Penang island.
One of the components, the Pan Island Link 1 highway, has been approved by federal environmental regulators.
When contacted, SJK (T) Sungai Ara headmaster Sangga Sinniah said he could not comment on the issue, but that a report has been sent to the education department pending an investigation.
However, one of the NGO’s leaders told FMT that the students were there at the encouragement of their parents, who had accompanied them at all times.