Malaysia

PAS, PKR say panel a ‘waste of time’ if powerless over Lynas

By Shannon Teoh
March 20, 2012

 

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — PAS and PKR threatened to boycott the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the controversial Lynas Corp rare earths refinery if it is not given the power to decide the fate of the RM2.3 billion project.

Their Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partner DAP had earlier said it would abstain from the PSC, calling it a “sham” by the Najib administration to legitimise the Australian miner’s plant.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak had irked the project’s detractors when he said on Saturday the panel’s purpose was not to decide on the fate of the plant in Gebeng, Kuantan but was part of Putrajaya’s engagement process to ensure the public understood the issues at hand.

PAS central committee members Khalid Samad and Dzulkefly Ahmad (picture) told Parliament their party would not join the PSC unless the decision on the plant, that has raised fears of radiation pollution, is tied to the committee’s findings.

“Otherwise it is pulling wool over the public’s eyes and white-washing an already finished project,” Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly told The Malaysian Insider.

PKR vice president Fuziah Salleh said that while she would not yet give up on the panel “as it is a chance for the people of Kuantan to air their views,” Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers’ staunch defence of the project in Parliament today pointed to the likelihood the PSC “would be a waste of time.”

“What is the point if it is not to find out if the plant is safe? The panel must be given the mandate to decide on the fate of the plant,” she told reporters, saying that she would abide by the decision of her party.

The Kuantan MP has led opposition against the project that has raised fears of radiation pollution in her constituency.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said this morning the tenure of the PSC can be extended beyond its current three-month span to “complete and table a report containing recommendations to the Dewan Rakyat to be agreed on.”

The Cabinet agreed last week for form a bipartisan PSC to look into the Lynas controversy with nine members, four BN lawmakers, three PR MPs, one independent and Umno minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin as chairman.

Thousands of anti-Lynas protestors attended an opposition-backed rally by Himpunan Hijau last month in the largest protest yet against the rare earths plant that is expected to fire up later this year.

Critics of the refinery want Putrajaya to direct the nation’s nuclear regulator to reverse its decision to approve Lynas’ temporary operating licence (TOL), which will let the Australian miner embark on a two-year trial run.

They allege that Lynas has not given enough assurances on how it will handle the low-level radioactive waste that will be produced at the refinery.

The government has been under pressure from groups to shut down the rare earths project over safety fears, but Putrajaya has stood its ground on the project that was first earmarked for Terengganu.

Lynas maintains that waste from the Gebeng plant — which will be the largest rare earths refinery in the world upon completion — will not be hazardous and can be recycled for commercial applications.