We do not ‘use’ children, say climate change NGOs

PETALING JAYA: Environmental activists have criticised a city councillor for accusing them of exploiting underaged children in a recent protest demonstration against climate change.

The schoolchildren had come forward on their own, said members of Klimate Action Utara Malaysia and Klima Action Malaysia. They criticised the term “use” repeated by Penang Island city councillor Vino Dini Chandragason as being “entirely out of place, unsubstantiated and poorly applied”.

In a joint statement, the two groups said the school children “had, with the permission of their school and parents, made themselves present to express their concerns. These were done under the supervision of their parents and approval of their school”.

The groups said the children’s action was similar to a recent climate strike in Bidor by SMJK Chung Hua, at which the whole school enrolment, under the supervision of teachers, carried placards to convey their concerns about climate change and how it affects the future of the children.

The two groups said the protest was not “centred or focused on petty political matters, nor to propagate dissatisfaction” with the Penang Transport Master Plan.

“We emphasise that we do not ‘use’ children to forward our cause. It is the entire opposite of our agenda”, the two groups said. “We would like to clarify and reassert that our cause is purely environmental in nature.”

Vino had reportedly said the groups had abused their role as NGOs by using children to get their message across and that the NGOs were “abusing their power and status by involving underaged children below 12 to represent the groups’ dissatisfaction with the PTMP”.

However, the two groups said environmental problems were linked to the state’s political aspirations and said the allegations made against them was “an attempt by the state to mislead the public from the real issue at hand”.

“The assessments conducted by the State is lacking in terms of coverage, integrity and independence as it does not reflect the true impacts of the affected parties and environmental factors, thereby it is not in line with the state’s commitment of implementing Sustainable Development Goals as a basis in Penang’s future structure projects,” they said.

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.