KUALA LUMPUR, March 12 – The DAP has named anti-Lynas activist Wong Tack as its candidate for the Bentong parliamentary seat, hoping to bank on his popularity to unseat incumbent and MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai in Election 2013.
Wong, a Bentong native, leads Himpunan Hijau, the movement fighting for the closure of Lynas’ rare earth plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, following environmental concerns, a key issue among the Chinese community in Pahang.
His candidacy was announced by DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng who described the decision as a “positive” development in Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) effort to infiltrate the known MCA fortress.
“The DAP agreed that his candidacy would leave a positive impact in our effort to win Bentong which is now a MCA fortress,” he told a packed press conference at the party’s headquarters here.
Liow, who is also the current Health Minister, won the Chinese majority seat in the last elections with a staggering 12,549 majority, beating little-known P Gonusamy of PKR by garnering 25,124 votes against the latter’s 12,585 votes.
Prior to that, the DAP had fielded a Malay candidate for the seat. Liow demolished Abu Bakar Lebai Sudin with a 16,839 majority.
Lim, who is also Penang Chief Minister, said PR leadership, including Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, concurred with the DAP’s view that fielding Wong would boost the federal opposition bloc’s chances of eliminating the MCA No.2 in the coming race.
“We are up against a giant in Bentong, so we cannot field in just any candidate, but a whole organisation: Himpunan Hijau,” DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said at a press conference today.
“If Pakatan Rakyat can win over Bentong, then BN will certainly fall in Putrajaya,” he said.
However, fz.com had earlier reported that the move did not receive the endorsement of its allies, particularly PKR, whose Pahang chief Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman was quoted as saying that he was not informed of the move.
Speaking at the same press briefing, Wong said his candidacy would ensure the fight to close the Lynas plant, along with the campaign for stronger environmental policies and human rights, continues.
The Himpunan Hijau activist also dismissed suggestions that Anwar was inconsistent with his position on the Lynas plant.
Wong said he agreed with the opposition leader’s opinion that the Australian mining giant, which described as coming into Malaysia through the “back door”, should be allowed to operate here should it observes the stringent safety requirements.
“If Lynas went out back through the back door and come back in properly through the front door, complying with our procedures, than we would let you come,” he said.
But Wong suggested that Lynas did not meet with the safety standards set by the Malaysian government and that its operating licence were acquired irregularly.
Observers noted Anwar risks being accused of inconsistency in his stance on the Lynas’ Gebeng plant following today’s publication of a report that he would back it if it survives a new public inquiry.
The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) quoted him as saying that a federal government controlled by Pakatan Rakyat would allow the rare earth processing factory to continue operating if the inquiry found it to be safe.
The statement appears to conflict with a remark he made during a Himpunan Hijau rally in Kuantan last year. He assured his audience then that Pakatan would dismantle the plant.
But Wong said Anwar’s statement was consistent with his own view – that he had only agreed to allow Lynas operate if it met local safety requirements.
“We want to let them know that they are not facing environmental extremists. We are not against any development,” he said.