Where two worlds collide

To find a pearl dive deep into the ocean

don’t look in fountains

To find a pearl

you must emerge from the water of life always thirsty

Jallaludin Rumi

The awakening of Malaysians to a sense of responsibility with respect to fundamental issues affecting their lives and those of their children and grandchildren is best epitomised in the Green Walk from Kuantan in the east coast of Malaysia, to Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), on the west coast, by ordinary folks marching 300 kilometers on foot. It heralds what is aptly penned by Boon Kia Meng as “The emancipatory journey for a green Malaysia”. For many who walked the long way “home”, it is a journey of self –discovery and awakening to what’s going on and of finding the courage to take a stand to effect change.

This sense of awakening was similarly reflected in a green campaign to save Bukit Kiara in April 2012 following the sudden erection of a costly unsightly 3.6 meters high perimeter fencing on what is one of the last remaining green lungs in the Klang Valley. Bukit Kiara, famed for its trails that have been painstakingly crafted by volunteers of TRAKS (Trails Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor), was dramatically transformed into a noisy muddy mess as bulldozers work their way on Bukit Kiara causing collateral damage to trees, river system and wildlife.

Friends of Bukit Kiara ( FoBK), an NGO founded in 2001 to protect and preserve Bukit Kiara as a permanent forest reserve was immediately concerned , fearing that the fencing was an indication of future development and sought assurances from the authorities. (Streets, New Straits Times, 15 May 2012 ). When no response was forthcoming to FoBK’s request for a dialogue with the authorities, a signature campaign to save Bukit Kiara was kicked off on 28 April 2012 ignited by an activist with the aid of TRAKS volunteers.

More than 10000 park users and concerned citizens rallied to the cause to save Bukit Kiara from development and from what was envisaged by the National Landscape Department ( Jabatan Lanskap Negara) in its 25 year Plan for a “Disneyland Park “. The campaign culminated in an Awareness Walk on 15 July 2012 in protest against development and to press for Bukit Kiara to be gazetted . It was instrumental in halting construction activities in Bukit Kiara. Assurances were given by the authorities that the ugly fencing will be removed, flora and fauna destroyed will be replaced and frequent dialogues will be held with FoBK . Of significance was the repeated assurance to FoBK that Bukit Kiara will be gazetted as a “ Forest Park .“ ( The Star 1 August 2012).

As of to date however, the gazettement of Bukit Kiara remains as elusive as ever. The ugly fencing is still sticking out like a sore demilitarised border on Bukit Kiara. Worse, the High Court had ordered Kuala Lumpur City Hall ( Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur ) to allow a private developer to go ahead with development on its leased Equestrian lot adjacent to Bukit Kiara. The sincerity of the authorities with its oft- broken record of assurances sung since 2005 with even Cabinet approval given in 2007 for Bukit Kiara to be a Permanent Forest Reserve remains questionable. The authorities who have given the assurances have come and gone but the assurances that Bukit Kiara will be gazetted as a Permanent Forest Reserve has yet to be translated into any semblance of action or reality.

What is real but apparently blur to the authorities is that supporters of the Save Bukit Kiara Awareness Walk, like the Green Walk, comprised of grandfathers & grandmothers, uncles and aunties and their children coming together from all walks of life. Supporters comprised a good demographic mix , many of whom have never in their life-time participated in a mass Walk, let alone a protest! Ordinary folks were awakened to ecological thinking and bonded to the theme “ it takes a village to save the forest in Bukit Kiara.” The Awareness Walk is inspiring as to what ordinary people can achieve in not just community awakening but also to the awakening of the individual and self-fulfillment. When people bond together for a worthy cause, only then can they engage the “enemy”, reckon with themselves and the lives they are leading.

Responsible Malaysians are beginning to ask themselves:

1. Can we turn a blind eye to the degradation and deprivation of our environment where trees and swathes of forest are cleared to make way for the palatial homes and playgrounds of the rich and well-connected?

2. Where will our children and their children go for refuge and recreational activities?

3. How can nature lovers and those that seek refuge in Bukit Kiara from the heat and pollution coupled with the stress of modern life be treated to a shopping mall and commercial development sprouting up from what many have come to see as their sanctuary?

4. Will we just stand by and watch while our fellow Malaysians in Kuantan face the threat of hazardous effects from a Rare Earth plant rejected by its country of origin but welcomed by a government that placed profits above the well-being of its people?

Thich Nhat Hanh, the monk nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967, warned us not to close our eyes to suffering and to what is going on around us. He questioned us as to what is the purpose of meditating , praying or religious study and said, “ Meditation’s purpose is to be aware of what is going on in ourselves and in the world. What is going on in the world can be seen within ourselves and vice- versa. Once we see this clearly, we cannot refuse to take a position and act.” ( Thich Nhat Hanh, “ Interbeing”, 1987.)

Ecological and non-violent thinking which inspired the Save Bukit Kiara campaign as well as the Green Walk, Bersih 2.0 and Bersih 3.0 mark “the beginnings of a dynamic non-violent people’s revolution “. It is not about a transfer of political, economic or social power from one party or class to another, but the empowerment of the people by the people for the benefit of people and community.

This awakening and the emergence of an empowered civil society will be in motion soon in a Save Bukit Kiara Walk organized by FoBK on March 17 2013. The Walk is in response to the elegant silence of the authorities following FoBK’s appeal in December 2012 to the Prime Minister (who passed the buck to the Mayor ) not to approve the private developer’s plans which will impair the natural beauty and tranquility of Bukit Kiara. More importantly, The Walk is to send a clear message to the authorities to gazette Bukit Kiara now or the people, backed by support from a Coalition of Residents Associations in the Klang Valle for FoBK, may express their displeasure at its endless deferment at the ballot box in Malaysia’s thirteenth general election.

Ecological and non-violent thinking Malaysians are standing up to be counted to walk the talk in order to protect and preserve Bukit Kiara as a permanent forest reserve and what we value with honour.

Chui Lim subscribes to the sublime Dharma, loves Mother nature, music , dance and reading. An activist, she hopes to inspire people to effect change for a better Malaysia.