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  • Writer's pictureYB Wong Chen

“People Before Profits”

Yesterday at 4.30 pm, I joined the climate action marchers at Dataran Merdeka. There was a small but vibrant crowd of 200 to 300 people. I was contacted by a chap called Reza to join the march. I was also asked to give a speech on the haze and climate change/carbon pricing and what possible actions we can take in Parliament. I also spoke to a group of reporters who asked about my views on the haze. Upon scanning the crowd, I realised I was the only MP/Politician present at the event.

Briefly, this is what I believe Parliament must do. A transboundary haze legislation needs to be enacted as soon as possible. The ASEAN platform is simply not viable, the lack of action on the Rohingya humanitarian crisis is a case in point. So we need you to write/call/lobby your MPs to push for such a law. The law may take 6 to 9 months to draft, so we need to act fast before the next haze cycle. We can base 50% of our proposed law on the Singaporean 2015 transboundary law, with some major improvements.

Instead of relying on local authorities (Indonesian) to fully cooperate, which renders the Singapore law somewhat limited in effectiveness, we must pass a law that leverages on the latest satellite and geo-spatial technology. Once the government can reasonably prove via these satellite images that a Malaysian company is involved, then we can immediately charge the corporations responsible and then put the onus of proving innocence to the corporations. In this extremely damaging public health matter, the burden of proof must be tweaked to favour the people and not the corporations.

Do note that this law is not an attack on the palm oil industry, but an enhancement against corporate greed. Under current laws, plantations can be developed but they are not allowed to do so via open burning. The corporations are supposed to mulch and recombine the organic matters into the soil. But this proper way costs a lot of money, whereas setting fire costs a mere matchstick. So setting fire to a forest is completely indefensible and is nothing more than corporate greed, driven by cost savings.

On carbon pricing, I have submitted a Parliament question to the Ministry of Environment. I will report when I get an answer in the next sitting, which starts in October. My proposal for carbon pricing in a form of a carbon tax on the power producers is also based on the Singapore experience. In Singapore, the power plants are profitable but do not make obscene profits and yet their government has decided to do something positive to combat climate change.

In Malaysia, the power plant tycoons with their super lucrative profits, have no moral excuse whatsoever not to pay a little bit for climate change. We shall see if my own PH government has the political will to give a small slap on the wrists of these tycoons. It is no wonder that the crowd yesterday were chanting, "People before profits!"


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