Gerakan have finally shown their true colours by opposing Penang PR State Government “No Free Plastic Bag” green initiative to be launched next year in 2011.

Statement by Thing Siew Shuen, Environmental Officer To Chief Minister of Penang Lim Guan Eng in Komtar, George Town, on 23 December 2010:

Penang Gerakan Chief Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan has finally revealed Gerakan true colours in opposing the “No Free Plastic Bag” green initiative of the Penang PR government even when they benefit the people, the environment and our future generations. By opposing the Penang PR state government ”No Free Plastic Bag” initiative beginning 2011, Datuk Dr Teng shows that Gerakan has lost all direction and is merely opposing for the sake of opposing. What alternative Gerakan has and what right has Gerakan to criticise this green initiative when Gerakan has no courage to implement any green proposals when Datuk Dr Teng was the EXCO member.

When the No Free Plastic Bag ruling came under fire from the Malaysian Plastic Manufacturers Association (MPMA), who planned to distribute not only leaflets but also 150,000 free plastic bags, the Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng urged NGOs and green groups to counter the MPMA’s campaign.

After the Chief Minister expressed his disappointment at some NGOs for not coming out in full support of the green initiative by working on the ground educating the public, Dr Teng said the ban on free plastic bags should be studied again. Dr Teng also launched personal attacks against Lim calling him dictatorial and that since he approved the plastic bag ban, he must accept responsibility.

Is it wrong for the state government to ask NGOs to mobilize and show support to make sure what they were pushing for is successfully implemented?

Dr Teng has also misled and causing unnecessary panic among the public in his statement by saying that the state government is banning the usage completely.

In fact, the state government is not imposing a total ban on plastic bags. Those who want plastic bags can still purchase them for 20 cents. The state government has been consulting the major stakeholders in Penang from time to time such as hypermarkets, supermarkets, convenience stores, etc since 2009. The extension of “No Free Plastic Bag Day” to everyday is a consensus that arrived in the meeting.

In this initiative, creative 3Rs (Reduce, reuse and recycle) has been promoted. We distributed free shopping bags made of used banners; some people also put clean, folded plastic bags in their pocket and reuse it. The State government is also working with the local government on a ‘100 steps for cleanliness’ programme where a recyclable items collection facility will be placed at every 100 steps in the high population density area.

The charges of each plastic bag is 20 cents, it will be donated to the Hardcore Poverty Fund. People can save the 20 cents by bringing their own shopping bags. Even the Federal government is emulating such approach in their “No Plastic Bag Every Saturday” nationwide campaign starting Jan 2011.

We would also like to remind everyone that the new ruling is not applied to hawkers and petty traders. We understand that people needs time to adapt to the new policy. If the state government had not considered the plight of the plastic manufacturers, it would be a blanket ban on plastic bags as requested by some of the NGOs.

The State Government has taken a political risk of losing its popularity, by initiating a bold step to implement ‘no free plastic bag’ everyday from January 1, 2011. PR Penang state government’s willingness to sacrifice by losing popularity shows PR’s commitment to reduce carbon footprints and fight climate change.

The Penang PR government has done what BN wanted to do but failed in the past. This time, Dr Teng and Gerakan should act decisively to support this initiative and make Penang a cleaner, greener place for everyone.

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