Greenpeace Southeast Asia

What happens when the good people do good by Chuck Baclagon

Here is an update from the Climate Defenders Camp in Indonesia, which is now being shutdown by the police.

From Sarah Burton:

Today I arrived in Pekanbaru, second largest city in Sumatra and a mere 4 1/2 hours away from the climate defenders camp, which is where I was headed, together with local campaigner Joko, and Ilona a young campaigner from our office in Russia who is spending a few weeks in our South East Asian office.

I am the Deputy International Programme Director, normally based out of Amsterdam. A grand title, but what I really like to do is get to where the action is, and at the moment there is nowhere more action-packed than this, I thought.

I was right, it seems. After the wonderful action in the forest last Thursday (a fabulous picture of which is currently taking a full page in the International Herald Tribune’s Asia edition, in an ad aimed at President Obama, on a visit to Singapore) the local police took against the climate defenders – rather than the climate destroyers.

Some of the activists who will be deported on monday

I knew that some 11 of our activists had been taken to Pekanbaru to be deported from Indonesia because they are foreign nationals, so I decided to go and pay them a visit at the immigration authority. When I got there it was lunchtime, and a Greenpeace volunteer had just arrived with lunch for the 11 men and women, all of whom seemed to be in very fine spirits despite the depressing circumstances.

Each one came up to shake my hand and introduce themselves. I found that some of them were from Thailand, others from Brazil, Spain, and Germany. They had been at the camp for varying periods of time, from a few days to a few weeks. All were disappointed to be leaving, and wanted to send their love and hugs back to those remaining at the camp. But as I say, their spirits were high, particularly when they saw the image in the newspaper, because they knew the action had been a success, had had good impact around the globe, and brought the climate and forest crisis in Indonesia to many more thousands of people.

I stayed with the activists until it was time for them to leave, then went with them to the local airport to wave them off. They are lovely people, as you would imagine, as only the best people will put themselves on the line like that. They know, as I do, how important it is to protect the forest (even if only for just over a day as they had done), in order to protect the
climate. And we all know the difference between climate defenders, and criminals.

Later today, as I was hearing from the camp, a large number of police arrived to insist that the camp be dismantled, and that Greenpeace leave the site. I will go there tomorrow, at first light, to find out what is happening. I understand that the police have given our people until 6pm to leave. I want to see for myself what happens when the good people get stopped from doing good, while those who profit from destruction are allowed to carry on. I want to do what Greenpeace folks have been doing for decades and bear witness.

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