By TAN KARR WEI
MAKING its debut in 2008, the Green Voters will continue to make demands on candidates in the 13th general election in their fight for sustainable development in Malaysia.
The movement was started by the Friends of Kota Damansara (FOKD) just before the 12th general election as residents there battled to stop the clearing of the Sungai Buloh forest for development under the Petaling Jaya Local Draft Plan 2 (RTPJ2).
Formerly known as Green Voter of Kota Damansara, the non-governmental organisation has been re-launched recently as Green Voters 2.0 and project coordinator Jeffrey Phang said they want to push their agenda on a national scale.
“We will be tying up with other relevant NGOs and there are also many green groups that are interested, especially in places like Bukit Gasing or Ampang where residents have also been fighting to save their green spaces,” he said.
Currently, they have the Coalition of Good Governance (COGG) as the initiating coalition with FOKD, Empower, Komas, Suaram, the Centre for Independent Journalism and the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall as the steering committee.
“We’re primarily very Selangor-based but for a start, we’re working with the COGG in Penang to connect with people on the ground,” he said.
Phang said they were apolitical and were aiming to compile information on the various candidates in a constituency, especially their stand on environmental issues so that voters could make informed choices about who to vote for.
“We hope to get at least six people from each area so that we can give them training on what to do and they would in turn work for their local community. We will start with the urban areas where most of the issues are and move on to other areas,” said Phang.
The group will be making three local demands on the candidate in their constituency in a pledge that a candidate would sign on.
“First of all, we want the Freedom of Information Statues to be enacted on a national and state level. Currently Selangor is the only State that have enacted the Freedom of Information Bill. When residents are fighting against a certain development, little information is made known to us even when we try to get it from the local council. When information become a right of citizens, the chances of environmentally damaging projects can be avoided,” he said.
The Green Voters would also be asking for proper public engagement and consultation to be done whenever a development was to take place.
“The Local Agenda 21 (LA21) has mostly been done on a superficial level and has deprived the citizens of a platform to engage with the local council on local development matters,” he said.
The third demand was for the country to move towards a green economy by improving human capital, rejecting the establishment of dirty industries, exploiting the new sources of renewal energy, and rejecting nuclear energy.
“Of late we can see that Malaysia has lost its global competitiveness and while other countries are going towards renewal energy, we seem to be going the other way round,” he said.
On a national level, the Green Voters are calling for their elected representatives to support and implement local council elections.
After a long battle, the FOKD had succeeded in getting their forest gazetted as a reserve in March 2010.