Festival organisers regret action of activists
KUCHING: The organising committee of the Rainforest World Music Festival 2008 Sunday expressed its regret over the action of a group of activists to pick on the event to highlight their causes.
The event, led by Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah from Selangor, held a demonstration at the entrance to RWMF at Sarawak Cultural Village last Sunday.
The co-organising chairman of the event Benedict Jimbau said RWMF was not the right venue for the activists to come and hold demonstrations.
“Rainforest Music Festival is a major tourism event for Sarawak, and a big attraction for the state’s tourism industry. What has this festival got to do with their (the activists) causes?” he asked when contacted on Sunday.
The activist held up small banners with the words “What Rainforest?” while others were holding candles as they made several remarks against oil palm plantations and the land policy of Sarawak.
Asked if the activist had ‘barked up the wrong tree’, Benedict said: “Well, if that is the way you put it, then I personally think that it is.”
On a positive note, he was happy that the demonstration did not have any impact on the carnival-like atmosphere on Sunday night.
Benedict, who is also Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) corporate affairs executive, said the immensely-popular RWMF is now one of the best know music festivals in the world and attract concert-goers from many countries.
He thanked the police for smooth handling of the demonstration as the activists were properly dispersed without resulting in any untoward incident.
The demonstration at SCV last Sunday, which was also the last night of the RWMF 2008, attracted a large crowd of curious onlookers mainly foreigners coming for the RWMF.
It is learnt that it was not the first time that the activists had tried to ‘use’ the RWMF to spread their message. However, it was the first time a demonstration was being held and also the first involving Sivarasa who is also Subang MP since he was elected MP in the March general elections. Many of the concert-goers also felt that the group of people was using the wrong platform to tell their message.
“This is the wrong time and the wrong place to do it. This festival actually helps the tourism industry. These people are just barking up the wrong tree,” said one journalists.
ps: What Rainforest? would like to clarify that YB Sivarasa Rasiah had no part in organizing the candlelight vigil. YB Siva was merely a festival goer supporting our cause who, as a human rights lawyer saw a need to intervene when the situation begin to turn ugly with the police. What Rainforest? would however like to extend our utmost thanks to YB Sivarasa for his timely legal intervention.
pps: It is confirmed, the organisers of the RWMF has made an official statement saying that the RWMF is strictly a tourism event. It is definitely not a platform to highlight the plight of the rainforest and indigenous people as it was originally intended to. Once again What Rainforest? would like to pose the question “What Rainforest?”
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