KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 — Environmental group Himpunan Hijau says “bringing down the regime” will be its focus next year as it started this morning a protest drive convoy from Gombak here to Gebeng, Pahang to mark its last public offensive of the year against the controversial Lynas rare earth plant in Gebeng.
The convoy will converge at its base camp in Balok tonight as a display of strength and to usher in the new year, which it hopes will bring in positive change to its fight against what it sees as a “symbol of corruption”.
“After this, Lynas will not be our focus anymore. But to destroy the threat, we must look hard to prevent further corruption and abuse of power,” Himpunan Hijau chairman Wong Tack told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.
Their convoy was preceded by a 13-day march from Kuantan to Dataran Merdeka here last month involving around 200 members, and a 100-hour hunger strike by an affiliate group Malaysian Youth Against Public Hazards.
The green movement had a humble beginning on October 9 last year when 5,000 concerned citizens came together in Pahang — the home state of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak — to lend their support against the plant which they believed was yet another example of the government putting profits before the people.
By their second gathering on February 26 this year in Kuantan, the small chorus of angry voices had swelled up to around 20,000, and was regarded by many as a symbol of Malaysia’s burgeoning civil society.
On April 28, Himpunan Hijau joined forces with the larger electoral reform movement Bersih, and was involved in clashes between the police force and demonstrators.
As the next general election approaches, Himpunan Hijau’s message will become more relevant to their audience as they push for systemic change — by trying to change the administration that granted Lynas an opportunity to set foot in Malaysia in the first place.
“We will work hard to bring down the regime ... We will bring down the government,” Wong declared.
He admitted that it would be impossible for the group to dismantle the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) which had been given the green light to operate after a temporary operating licence (TOL) was granted.
However, the group explained that all it wishes is for Lynas to go through the proper and legal procedures in setting up a rare earth plant instead of “taking the back door”, and hopes that the winning government will force Lynas back to square one.
“We were never against Lynas coming, we were never against rare earth, we just don’t want them to go through a short cut,” Wong asserted.
“When they are 100 per cent ready, 100 per cent safe, and comply with the regulations 100 per cent, they can go on. Why does Malaysia have to take all the risk?”
Despite shifting its focus on other environmental threats in Malaysia, Wong stressed that Himpunan Hijau will not be sitting idly with regards to Lynas.
“The operation in Balok base camp will continue,” he said, giving the example of car blockades that they have started to stop shipments of materials from ever getting in or out of the plant.
Himpunan Hijau will also be working with international environmental groups to boycott HSBC, the British multinational banking and financial services which allegedly financed Lynas.
“We will call for people to cut off their service with them,” explained Wong.
The group demonstrated against the bank’s branch in Jalan Mahkota, Kuala Lumpur last week.
Despite their still unfinished struggle which comes to peak with the convoy, Wong declared that their fight had been very successful.
“This is a powerful dark force that we’re dealing with, a multinational corporation working with the local power through collusion. It is a big challenge for ordinary citizens,” he said.
He highlighted the fight against the proposed coal-powered power plant in Sabah which took around five years to finally end, and compared it to the current fight against Lynas which had only been going on for more than a year.
The power plant in Lahad Datu, Sabah was finally scrapped in February last year after Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said that the federal and state governments had agreed that coal would not be used as a source of energy for Sabah.
“When we started the campaign, 97 per cent of LAMP was complete, and they predicted that by the end of the year it will be in production.
“Today, although it has started operation, it has still not started its production yet,” Wong said proudly.
Most of the politicians, Wong said, have totally forgotten the citizens and do not have the interests of the people on their agenda any more.
“Whatever we said, people didn’t listen. Whatever we did, people didn’t notice,” Wong said, arguing that the public has now taken notice of their voice.
“This is the true people’s struggle ... And now we’re very close to victory,” declared Wong.
Around 10,000 cars and motorcycles are expected to turn up today for the Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan Anti-Lynas Protest Drive.
The protest will start at the PAS headquarters in Taman Melawar, Gombak at 8am, and arrive two hours later at the PAS office in Chegar Mendang, Bentong.
They will later move to Gebeng and camp out at the Himpunan Hijau anti-Lynas blockade base camp in Balok for a final rally before counting down the new year.
Names expected to speak tonight include national laureate and Bersih leader Datuk A. Samad Said, activist Hishamuddin Rais, PAS information chief Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man and Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) chairman Badrul Hisham Shahrin, popularly known as Che’gu Bard.