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Exploiting children? NGO says Penang councillor 'out of touch'

Published:  |  Modified:

Klimate Action Utara Malaysia (Kaum) has criticised Penang councillor Vino Dini Chandragason as being "out of touch" with global events.

This is after she accused Kaum and Klima Action Malaysia (Kamy) of exploiting children for a climate crisis event which the NGOs had jointly organised.

Kaum pointed out that when the events were organised in Penang on May 24 and 25, hundreds of thousands of other children were also gathering in other countries around the world at the same time as part of the Global Climate Strike, a movement initiated by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.

"For Vino to claim we 'used' schoolchildren for our own agenda shows her to be so out of touch with what is currently happening globally.

"On the same day, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren around the world walked out of their classrooms as they urged their respective governments to act on the climate crisis.

"Kaum and Kamy represent the youths of Malaysia, whose aim is to heighten environmental and climate awareness in our society, especially to our peer groups," it said in a statement today.

According to The Guardian, some 1.4 million young people in 1,400 cities in more than 110 countries participated in the protest. More than 100 schools in the UK participated in the event.

Kaum said the children who participated in the gathering received their parents' consent.

"The gathering was opened to the public," it said. "The schoolchildren had received consent and were joined by their parents and teachers voluntarily."

Kaum added that other NGOs which advocated various causes were also involved in the gathering.

"For Vino to blatantly accuse us of using children to protest megaprojects in Penang is unacceptable.

"We are very disappointed that she did not approach us for any clarification before making her controversial statement and tarnishing the image of our movement.

"The gathering was not all about the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) and other megaprojects alone, but more on how much carbon emission these projects will generate annually," it said.

Meanwhile, PSM environmental bureau coordinator Sharan Raj also criticised Vino for calling an investigation into the gathering, accusing her of "manipulating" the issue.

"Vino is shortsighted to claim the children were exploited when the children were expressing their concerns on environment degradation.

"These children will face first-hand the brutal devastation from climate change within the next decade," he said in a separate statement.

Sharan Raj said Vino's call was similar to BN which used draconian laws to restrict democratic space.

Vino had last Friday zoomed in on the presence of 11 primary schoolchildren at a gathering Kaum and its allies organised at a Ramadan bazaar in Bayan Baru in Penang.

She considered the protest as targeting the PTMP and claimed the NGOs had exploited the children.

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