It was rather serendipitous that the stifling month-long haze began to dissipate the night before September 21. Almost 1,000 people marched from Sogo to Dataran Merdeka for MY Climate Strike, a rally that coincides with the Global Climate Strike movement that was held worldwide from September 20 to 27.
MY Climate Strike was organised by Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY), a pressure group established only in April. With the support of Greenpeace Malaysia and Amnesty International Malaysia, the rally focused on the haze crisis and rising global temperatures.
The procession from Sogo began with a speech session by notable activists, MPs, Orang Asli community leaders, NGOs and academics. A Brazilian Capoeira dance also took place as an act of solidarity with those affected by the Amazon forest fire.
It was notable that many young people took part in the strike regardless of the hazy weather. Twelve-year-old Yara Kerschot and 10-year-old Lim Jaz Leen delivered powerful poetry readings about the need to take immediate action while exhorting the adults not to turn a blind eye.
“It's a positive step and a good sign to see more young people are concerned about the climate crisis,” says Greenpeace Malaysia campaigner Heng Kiah Chun.
“The youth are leading and using the newfound democratic space in Malaysia and are taking full advantage of it, while using it responsibly of course. Some of the police also sympathised with us because we’re all affected by the climate crisis.”
KAMY co-founder Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar, on the other hand, stresses the role of the government. “The government, plainly put, needs to grow a backbone and have the integrity to prioritise the long-term importance of the country’s future rather than the short term.
Nadiah also said that it’s the duty of the government to help and serve its rakyat.
“For instance, they should promote and provide opportunities to attract green-tech development in Malaysia as well as open doors to R&D in sustainable solutions in the country.”
The strike ended with a mass die-in.
“We’re in the phase of creating a platform to provide resources and training for communities and groups to actively participate in creating the critical mass needed to overturn the lack of political will in addressing the climate crisis issue in Malaysia,” Nadiah shares KAMY’s plans after the strike.
“We’re also in talks to mobilise citizen assemblies where stakeholders from the public and companies can sit down, discuss and come up with suggestions to the government,” she adds.
Malaysia joined 150 other countries to participate in the Global Climate Strike movement, which saw four million people protesting on the streets.
The initiative was inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who recently condemned world leaders in an emotional speech at the United Nations Climate Change Summit 2019 in New York. Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic for two weeks to reach the United States in a zero-emissions sailboat because she refused to contribute to carbon emissions caused by air travel.
Thunberg, who just won The Right Livelihood Award for “inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts”, is also up for a Nobel Peace Prize. She’s one of few people whose nomination has become known before the awards ceremony.
Watch her speech at the UN below: