Sailing the seven seas, spreading a green message

The Rainbow Warrior in Port Klang last month. — Greenpeace

THE storied Rainbow Warrior, flagship of environmental organisation Greenpeace, made its way back to Malaysia’s shores five years after it last visited.

The motor-assisted sailing yacht dropped anchor at South Port in Port Klang on March 18 as part of its global tour for climate justice.

The last time the ship visited the country was in 2018 when it was captained by Pete Wilcox. This time Captain Jose “Pep” Barbal Badia was at the helm, and he and the ship’s crew members were welcomed with a traditional “opening and washing hand ceremony” by a troupe of Mah Meri dancers.

The ship hosted several events on board as well as VIPs such as Pahang Regent Tengku Hassanal Sultan Abdullah and Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

Greenpeace South-East Asia executive director Yeb Sano gave Tengku Hassanal an exclusive tour of the vessel on the day it arrived. The ship was also open to free tours for the public.

Among the events held were the Climate Justice Forum: Deforestation, which was attended by Nik Nazmi; the Clean Air Forum that saw the release of recommendations on dealing with transboundary haze and air pollution by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia; and the Plastics in a Circular Economy Forum addressing the ongoing plastics pollution in Malaysia.

During the March 19 forum on deforestation, Nik Nazmi explained why Malay-sians will have to be a “little bit more patient” about the country’s first Climate Change Act, which had been mooted way back in 2018.

He said at the moment, there is “nothing on the table” on the Act despite earlier reports that it would be brought to Parliament this year.

“It’s an urgent Bill ... I think that we want to do it as soon as possible but we also want to do it as properly as possible.

“I want engagement with civil society, academicians so that when it gets passed, it’s a proper law,” he said.

Nik Nazmi said he didn’t want to merely “tick the boxes” in enacting the law only for it to turn out to be meaningless later.

On Feb 23, the minister told Parliament that the development of the Climate Change Act is expected to take two to three years.

During the ship’s inaugural visit in 2018, Greenpeace Malaysia highlighted its investigations into the imported plastic waste trade that culminated in The Recycling Myth report; the then Pakatan Harapan government subsequently began looking into what waste Malaysia imports.

The current Rainbow Warrior is the third iteration of the original ship that was notoriously bombed by French secret service agents in 1985, killing a crew member.

On July 10, 1985, the Rainbow Warrior was moored in the Port of Auckland, New Zealand, on its way to protest a planned French nuclear test at the Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific. Two mines detonated, 10 minutes apart, sinking the ship and killing 35-year-old Fernando Pereira, a Portuguese photographer and a father of two.

That never stopped environmental activists from around the globe continuing to volunteer to crew the ship. This ship’s 17-member crew, pointed out Captain Badia, are all different nationalities.

The Rainbow Warrior later announced a tour of the Pacific to create a platform for communities most impacted by the climate crisis to share their testimonies and amplify their calls for justice.

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