SUARAM's "People Before Profit" Desk began as an effort to focus and coordinate the struggles of Malaysians against the profit-driven projects, which we have become so familiar with in recent years.
For example, the pollution of our rivers and environment through mining and other toxic industries, the destruction of the forests and watershed, the encroachment into the native customary land of our indigenous peoples, the violation of workers' rights, the eviction of marginalised communities for so-called "development", and many others.
Nearly 20 years ago, SUARAM, together with other concerned NGOs, organised a "People Before Profits: The Rights of Malaysian Communities in Development" conference. Throughout Malaysia, communities victimized by "development," unfettered capitalism, and unaccountable privatisation projects, came together, forming a coalition to resist such profit-driven projects, sharing their experience, and discussing an alternative regenerative path of development. Recent events have shown us that this agenda is even more important especially in the face of the climate change crisis.
This desk also focuses on the growing wealth inequality in Malaysia, the ever-widening income disparity between the top 10 % and the remaining 90% of the population. We hope to cut through the ideology of race and religion and focus on peoples' interests irrespective of ethnicity, build a regenerative economy, and preserve our forests and nature.
Malaysians facing these problems of profit-driven "development" mustn't be isolated in their struggles. SUARAM's 'People Before Profit' desk hopes to provide solidarity and form a coalition of all Malaysians struggling throughout Malaysia - East and West, indigenous peoples, and city folk. It is time for the people to say "No" to race-based policies and irresponsible destruction of the environment. "No" to the victimisation of the Orang Asli and other indigenous peoples in senseless projects. "No" to blatant pollution by factory owners. "No" to mindless proliferation of highways and land reclamation of our seas. "No" to forcible evictions of communities for questionable property development projects. And "No" to the sacrifice of irreplaceable natural and cultural heritage.