On this day, March 29th 2018, I saw the display of flags of a political party in the city (Jalan Kuching roundabout to be specific), and immediately I was thinking about where the flags were made, who made them, how far was it transported before it reached our shores, the dye and ink used in the making of the flag’s fabric, and in short, I was observing the carbon footprint of one piece of blue flag on a pole. Every five years, the streets of the country are littered with political paraphernalia and as an advocate of a sustainable environment, this saddens me, that the very people who are elected and chosen to lead the country in its quest for glory, are also the very same people who are making some of the most damaging impacts on the environment. This manifesto may sound silly to some, as who really cares about what a mother thinks. Yet all of us were raised by a woman, a mother. And we all understand the significance and importance of a mother’s voice and influence. Even politicians, not matter how corrupted they are, are respectful of the lady who brought them in this world.
I was compelled to write this as I felt that my position as an environmentalist doesn’t stand as strong as my position as a mother, who is fighting for what is best for the future of her children. A mother’s call pales in comparison to that of an environmentalist, hence this manifesto.
What you will be reading below is a living manifesto and by that I mean, you are welcome to share with me more ideas on what should be in it especially if you are a mother yourself, with a passion for the environment, and wants to see a real change being made in the coming GE14.
Have a read. Have some serious thoughts about it. And contribute these thoughts to the manifesto. I only want what is right, and I also want to live in a country where I don’t feel like the direction of today’s government is going to choke, suffocate, take resources away and harm me. Literally.
Politicians publish manifestos and make promises, but it is the parliament which passes legislation, not political parties. It is governments that govern; not political parties. And it is people like us, mothers – who are trying our best to raise the next generation of great Malaysians – who have the decision making power of the vote to determine who governs us well for the next five years.
As a mother to two daughters, there are many aspects of the current politics in the country that worries and scares me especially those that relates to my children’s lives in terms of education, health, and environment. The way the education system flip flops consistently indicates that we don’t have a firm foundation (ever since the British left us) on the fundamental needs of a young child and the relevant approaches needed to foster better minds in this country. Political interferences and the battle among politicians to outdo each other’s efforts and campaign has disrupted and interfered with the way the education system is supposed to be addressed. Additionally, what science has proven to be bad for our environment and health, ignorant politicians reverses these scientific evidence (either due to complete ignorance or lack of awareness on basic environmental issues) by making statements on giving out free plastic bags to the public merely to gain political mileage but neglect the impact his actions have on the local and global environment.
As a mother, I have had enough of lip servicing from politicians while real issues on the ground that needs to be address are neglected or conveniently abused – a stronger education system, a better natural environment, better management and address of human and environmental health, innovative and better management of waste in this country, the heavy reliance on coal and other fossil fuels, the killing of our wildlife, all these issues concern me as my children are the future victims of bad, ignorant, destructive and unsustainable politics.
Mothers, of all races, religion, beliefs and faith, I encourage you to rise up and demand and ask our politicians, no matter which party they represent, on the following:
- To treat the environment as a mother would treat her own home. We know now that may of our politicians live very privileged lives, in big homes with the necessary luxuries for themselves and their children. Yet there are many more rakyat out there who can only imagine better lives. As a mother, we want the best for our homes – good food, conducive environment, a roof over our heads, and are able to meet our daily and future needs. If a politician makes sure his home is treated well, then he or she should also make sure that the natural environment is treated well, for without a good environment, there would not be a good home. Demand for your politician to be more responsible and aligned to local and environmental efforts. As mothers, we demand each of our politicians to demonstrate his or her green position and to walk the talk within his or her political party and be accountable to the public on your impact on the environment.
- To reduce or stop all types of pollution on land, water and air so that our children can thrive. As a mother, I urge our politicians to address the dire state of pollution on land, water and air. Every year, our children suffer from urban air pollution and the haze, if it comes, so much so that wearing masks is a norm today. We feed our children piped water that come from polluted rivers in the country. Wastes are choking streams and rivers, unsustainable management of traffic releases smog that suffocates the young delicate lungs of our children, and unhealthy pesticide-laden vegetables and fruits are altering the endocrinology of our next generation. We need politicians who can solve today’s pollution issues and benefit every rakyat, regardless of the state or district in which he or she resides in. We need our politicians to not politicize natural resources like forests, rivers and water, and marine resources. A good leader ensures that the well-being of the rakyat is taken care of, not exploited. As mothers, we demand for all our politicians to ensure that the health of our children, and the environment, are addressed in a fair, just, transparent and sustainable manner, in which violators or corrupters, even if they have royal connections, should be given the harshest fine in destroying nature. We demand that our politicians guard our forests and water resources to ensure our resources are managed sustainably, without the monopolization by selfish corporates or foreign private companies in the management, ownership and sale of all produce from our natural resources.
- To treat all the venues of all political events or activities with respect and never to leave behind trash, disturb the environment or damage geological features and vegetation. We have all seen this clearly especially when the government preaches that Styrofoam or plastic packaging are to be banned from being used, but yet at certain government events, we have seen with our own eyes, food wastage, plastic packaging, and a desecration of the environment from fliers, buntings, banners, papers and litter. How can you trust someone who is preaching to bring goodness to the people and the country when a simple thing like cleaning up one’s own mess cannot even be done? As mothers, we demand that all government agencies and ministries, led by our leaders and politicians, to enforce standard operating procedures that adopt the sustainable approach in all government or political events.
- To be transparent, accountable and responsible about the illegal use, destruction and abuse of, and negligence on the environment and take the necessary measures to remediate these unsustainable actions. The recent announcement of the Fake News Act stipulates that a RM500, 000 fine will be imposed if someone is found (with evidence) to be spreading fake news. Yet the biggest wildlife trafficker from Malaysia, or the most horrible and disgusting Malaysian paedophile (caught in UK), get away with a slap on their wrist. It is clear issues that shake a politician’s world are more worthy of a stricter penalty than any other important issues. Democracy is necessary and a pre cursor to sustainable development for without which, we would be living in a state of dictatorship. As mothers, we demand that politicians embrace democracy in its truest form and provide the public with a voice that can contribute positively to the development of a nation that’s just, fair and sustainable.
- To protect green spaces and the rights of the public to have green spaces like public and neighbourhood parks from selfish property developers so that our children and their parents are able to interact with nature. Parks and green spaces also act as rainwater or storm water collection systems, reduce the urban heat island effect, provide clean air, boost mental health and glues residents in a community in a common space. We want our children to have access to spaces they can be free, explore creatures under rocks and crevices, and most importantly bond with their parents and community. We need laws and regulations that protect the people and green spaces from corporations, not protect corporations and take away the green lungs from the people. As mothers, we demand our politicians to think of social and environmental impacts of excessive development and to ensure that the voice of the public is heard fairly. We demand our politicians to protect green spaces that are vital in its provision of clean air, recreational space, and biodiversity to sustain the lives of Malaysians in the country.
- To show the rakyat and embrace the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or any of our local environmental laws and efforts, by starting with the use of environmentally friendly modes of transportation for all government officials, or to ensure that politicians are following national efforts in waste separation at source. Some of the best environmental policies and legislations are found in this country YET we fall short in implementing and enforcing them. Worse, politicians often do not even subscribe to such efforts. From the Waste Separation at Source Act, to the environmental court, there is a serious need for our politicians to walk the talk. As mothers, we demand that all elected representatives, politicians and government leaders to show the examples that the country has subscribed to and to be monitored and reported to the public. Politicians that are linked to illegal mining companies, or irresponsible and corrupted approaches to governance, should be brought to the environmental court, and questioned by the public. If we are expecting us to trust them, then make sure that we, the rakyat, can trust politicians too.