Malaysia

Lynas PSC negates need for TOL review, say government lawyers

The Kuantan residents are accusing the AELB of approving the provisional licence for Lynas in return for a cut of the firm’s local revenue. — File picThe Kuantan residents are accusing the AELB of approving the provisional licence for Lynas in return for a cut of the firm’s local revenue. — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Apr 4 - There is no need for legal review of the provisional permit granted to Lynas Corp as the same issues will be heard at the parliamentary select committee on the issue, the High Court here heard today.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) also noted that an appeal has been filed with Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili to review the decision to grant a temporary operating licence (TOL) to the Australian miner.

"So we have the appeal pending, we also have the PSC. They are going to deal with the same issue," senior federal counsel Suzana Atan said.

Senior federal counsel Noor Hisham Ismail added that the "scientific issues" of radiation and the plant's safety would be better deliberated by way of appeal to the minister.

But lawyer Tommy Thomas, representing Pahang residents who have challenged the TOL approval by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB), said the law did not state that the legislative, executive and judiciary arms of government could not discuss the matter simultaneously.

"Are they really saying that their understanding of constitutional law... is that the three branches of government cannot discuss, at the same time, a matter of massive public interest?" he said.

The Pahang residents filed a suit against AELB  and two others on February 17 alleging that the nuclear watchdog had issued Lynas a TOL for rare earth refinery in return for a slice of the firm's revenue here.

The suit seeks a court order cancelling AELB's January 30 approval of the TOL, which has yet to be issued.

Also named were the Department of Environment's (DoE) director-general of environmental quality and Lynas's local subsidiary, Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Thomas also said that the claim by the AGC and Lynas Malaysia lawyer Datuk Dominic Puthucheary that the judicial review application should be dismissed as the TOL had been approved but not issued was a "game of semantics".

Dominic had argued that there was no decision for the court to review as the Lynas plant was not permitted to start operations until the licence was issued.

"Nothing has really been done by the board to allow the third respondent to operate the factory in any manner that would violate any of the concerns of the applicants," Dominic had told the court.

But Thomas countered that the approval constituted a decision that the court could review, even if the TOL had yet to be issued.

Justice Rohana Yusof has set April 12 for the decision on whether the challenge will go ahead.

Critics allege that Lynas Corp has failed to give enough assurances on how it will handle the low-level radioactive waste that will be produced at the plant, some 25km from Kuantan city centre.

But the Australian miner maintains that waste from the Gebeng plant will not be hazardous and can be easily recycled for commercial applications.

Parliament approved a select committee on Lynas on March 20 amid opposition furore over its terms of reference and suspicion that the nine-man panel will be used to "whitewash" the issue.

 

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