Malaysia

Clean government needed for clean environment, say Lynas opponents

By Shannon Teoh
February 27, 2012

People gather for a peaceful protest against the Lynas Corp refinery, in Kuantan February 26, 2011. — Picture by Jack OoiPeople gather for a peaceful protest against the Lynas Corp refinery, in Kuantan February 26, 2011. — Picture by Jack OoiKUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — Organisers of yesterday’s anti-Lynas rally said today it will continue to work with electoral reforms movement Bersih 2.0 as only a “clean government” can protect the environment.

Himpunan Hijau confirmed today it will hold another protest after Datuk Seri Najib Razak insisted the controversial rare earth plant in Kuantan is “scientifically safe.”

Chairman Wong Tack said that after “the positive partnership of Himpunan Hijau and Bersih 2.0”, the group will meet with the electoral reforms movement to moot a joint “green and yellow Bersih 3.0.”

“We have received the first response from our prime minister. We feel encouraged but, unfortunately, the answer was not what we were expecting.

“We realise and strongly believe that in order to have a clean environment, we need a clean government,” he said in a statement today.

Bersih 2.0 co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan spoke at yesterday’s rally, telling protestors “when you vote, you can reject candidates who support Lynas. You can reject candidates without integrity.”

Najib had dismissed the concerns raised by the protestors who mustered a crowd of over 8,000 yesterday, insisting the RM2.5 billion refinery, which has raised fears of radiation pollution, is “factually and scientifically” safe.

“We want to find a solution acceptable to the people but at the same time, would not affect our investments,” he said.

Thousands of anti-Lynas protestors attended an opposition-backed mass rally in Kuantan yesterday, in the single largest protest yet against the rare earth refinery that is expected to fire up operations later this year.

Buoyed by yesterday’s successful turnout, Himpunan Hijau issued a 24-hour deadline for the federal government to shut down the Lynas Corp plant in Gebeng or face an even bigger demonstration.

The protest came on the heels of the Atomic Energy Licensing Board’s (AELB) decision on January 20 to grant Lynas a temporary operating licence (TOL), which will let it embark on a two-year trial run.

Critics have alleged that the Australian miner has not given enough assurances on how it will handle the low-level radioactive waste that will be produced at the refinery.

Yesterday, Najib said that the government has already reviewed Lynas’s operations and the firm has been given strict guidelines to follow.

“We would not give an operating licence unless we are satisfied that the local community can accept that this project is safe,” he said.

He noted that one of the conditions attached to Lynas Corp’s TOL is that the disposal of toxic waste materials must be done at a remote location away from the local community.

But Wong said today the suggestion “is totally senseless” and reflected “a shallow understanding of the ecological system and blatant disrespect of natural environment.”

“Our prime minister must realise that the thousands of acres of land used for permanent disposal of toxic/radioactive wastes will deprive our children and our children’s children for generations to come from getting near it for billions of years,” he said.