KUALA LUMPUR — Squatter communities across the Klang Valley expressed their disappointment with the government today for not providing them with electricity to enable them to participate in the Earth Hour lights-off event on Saturday.
The Earth Hour, in which everyone is asked to switch off their lights for a full hour at 8:30pm local time, was an initiative by a movement based in Sydney, Vote Earth in 2007 which has now grown into a global event. This year, the target was for a billion people across the globe to live in darkness for an hour on March 28.
Unfortunately for the squatter communities in Klang Valley and across the nation, the hour passed them by without anyone being able to participate.
“We are sorely disappointed,” said Mat Seman Bidayan, 78, when met at his ramshackle abode today. “It was a global event which everyone in the community had hoped to celebrate. The young ones had started asking us two months ago, ‘When could we have electricity and proper lights so we can switch them off come Earth Hour?’… and we didn’t have the heart to tell them the challenge we’ve had in getting Tenaga Nasional (national power company TNB) to set it up.
“We’ve been writing TNB to give us power for years now, but all our requests have fallen on deaf ears.”
Mat Seman said that the community leaders had gone to the TNB headquarters last month to personally plead for electricity supply, in light of the impending Earth Hour event.
“The officers in charge pretty much gave us the same answer: ‘We’ll look into it’, or ‘Your request is being processed’. It’s frustrating,” he said sadly while refilling kerosene into his wicker lamps.
“I mean, we’re not asking for electricity to power TVs or microwave ovens here. We need the power to show our love for the planet.
“What, you think we need it to play XBox or Wii?”
Mat Seman added that now the children of his squatter community are traumatised, having missed such an important global occasion.
“What will they tell their friends at school? While their peers now have the extra confidence and illumination having lived without electricity-powered lights for an hour, our children couldn’t even have the electric lights to switch off. It was indignifying. Our houses were still brightly lit by these blasted oil-lamps while the rest of the world went dark!” he said angrily.
Mat Seman said that the squatter communites have resolved to unite in their fight for electricity.
“We’re beginning our battle now for next year’s Earth Hour. We’re starting with a web portal, www.wewantpowerforearthhour.com, where everyone who wants electricity-powered lights to switch off can file in their request and petition. Later, we will file our case in the courts to make TNB give us power,” he said.
“The time for pleadings is over. We deserve to be in Earth Hour, and we’ll make damn sure we’ll get it. We’ll show ’em what ‘power’ really means.”