KUALA LUMPUR: The capital city today stood in solidarity with its Kuantan counterparts in calling for an end to Lynas Corporation Ltd and its rare earth plant in Gebeng.
Close to 1,000 people set Maju Junction awash in various shades of green this morning as they gathered as early as 8.30am for the nationwide Himpunan Hijau 2.0 rally.
While the KL numbers were nowhere near the 10,000 strong crowd at the main rally site in Kuantan, its significance lay in it demographics. As Kuala Selangor MP, Dzulkefly Ahmad noted, almost all were below 40 with half in their twenties.
Most came armed with handmade signs and glossy posters printed with anti-Lynas slogans. A few brought along their children who flashed colourful posters and shy smiles.
Saidi Abdul Karim, 52, had brought along his 9- and 11-year-old sons to drill into them the severity of the Lynas issue.
“We are aware of the effects of radiation and we don’t want a repeat of Japan here,” he said.
“We buy fish from Kuantan and we were in the midst of buying a home near Gebeng when we heard about the plant. We’ve cancelled our purchase.”
Ethan Wong, 11, told FMT that he had come to “save Malaysia from Lynas”. When asked what he understood about Lynas, he softly said, “Bad…makes poison.”
SK Chang, 36, decided to bring his family, including his 4-year-old daughter, for the rally after learning about the Lynas controversy from his wife.
“It’s about the future generation,” he said as way of explanation for his daughter’s presence. “KL isn’t that far away from Kuantan. Who will take responsibility in the long run?”
The morning kicked off with various performances including a mime on the repercussions of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) and a sing-a-long of popular songs like “What A Wonderful World” and “Green Green Grass of Home”.
The crowd later split into two groups with the first sitting on the ground listening to various speeches and poems, and the second lining up along the road to wave posters at honking buses and cars. Interestingly the more enthusiastic support came from RapidKL and Metrobus drivers who stuck out a thumbs-up sign at the cheering crowd.
A small group of police personnel cautioned the crowd when it spilled dangerously far across the road but generally kept their distance. The stream of traffic flowed freely and cafes at Maju Junction enjoyed brisk business during mid-morning.
Haris Ibrahim of Asalkan Bukan Umno (ABU), one of the rally organisers, said he was chuffed at the turnout.
“I’m totally bowled over at the size of the crowd and the fact that so many youth are here,” he beamed. “It’s so bizarre because the rakyat was opposed to this from the word “go” and yet the government pushed ahead.”
“Why are they taking this kamikaze route especially on an election year?”
The turnout also caught Dzulkefly by surprise as he said the KL rally wasn’t meant to bring in this many people.
“I’m very impressed by the youth participation and the support from motorists!” he laughed.
“The youth are not necessary partisan to any political party but definitely partisan to Lynas. They are very clear as to why they are here.”
Dzulkefly emphasised that this was a very strong call to prime minister, Najib Tun Razak, to stop the “arrogance” and keep to his earlier acknowledgment that the days of “government knows best” is over.
Two surfers and divers agreed with him. Chong Yi Suen, 27, and her sister, Yi Ling, 24, are determined to save their regular surfing spot in Cherating, Kuantan.
“We want the government to listen to us so that our kids can also experience these same enjoyments,” said Yi Suen.
“The anti-Lynas sentiment has gone viral on Facebook and that was what brought us and our friends here. We’ve all changed our profile pictures to green ones and will only change them back when Lynas is out of Malaysia.”
The crowd began thinning at 11.30am and Maju Junction was almost deserted by lunch time.
Photos By Riki Lee, more pictures at http://on.fb.me/xkh7UC
News By Stephanie Sta Maria (www.freemalaysiatoday.com)