Protesters slip past cops, hold sit-in near Lynas plant
KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 — About 1,000 protesters have slipped past police roadblocks to converge near Lynas Corp’s controversial rare earth plant at the Gebeng industrial zone, calling for the government to cancel the Australian miner’s impending licence.
Several police roadblocks have been set up since early this morning around the area to head off the penultimate stage of Himpunan Hijau’s 24-hour protest in Kuantan.
Led by PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu and PAS environment bureau chief Zulkefly Mohd Omar, the group were initially asked to turn back by police personnel manning a roadblock.
Undeterred, the group looked for a way to bypass it and managed to enter the Gebeng industrial park where they have held a sit-in since 11am.
Kuantan police have said the protestors are not allowed into the Gebeng commercial centre as they would be in breach of the Peaceful Assembly Act.
The planned 24-hour mass anti-Lynas protest began modestly yesterday afternoon with a few hundred gathering on Balok beach, Kuantan, a stone’s throw from the refinery which appears set to gain its temporary operating licence (TOL).
Himpunan Hijau had warned Lynas Corp and the government earlier this week of “wave after wave” of protests against the impending issuance of the TOL for the Australian miner’s plant, beginning with a day-long assembly this weekend.
Wong had said in a press conference earlier this week the project will be a “radioactive waste dump” despite the Sydney-based firm’s insistence that radiation would be at very low levels as “it will break down and alpha particles will release very strong radiation into the food chain.”
Lynas cleared probably its final major hurdle to getting its TOL this week after a parliamentary select committee (PSC) called for the licence to be issued as “scientific facts” show that the controversial Kuantan plant is safe.
The positive feedback tabled in the PSC report came just four days after the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry dismissed an appeal against the facility by residents living nearby and instead imposed two conditions that Lynas said it will have no problems satisfying.
However, residents who filed the appeal to the Ministry have said they will challenge the minister’s decision in court, calling the conditions “flimsy” and “not specific enough and will in no way safeguard or appease the fears of residents living in the area.”
The parliamentary committee on Lynas was approved in the Dewan Rakyat in March amid opposition furore over the alleged lack of terms of reference and suspicion that the nine-man panel would be used to “whitewash” the issue.
Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers also questioned the point of the select committee given that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had already said the government would not be bound by the panel’s findings.
Lynas had said last month that it was on track to start up what it says will be the world’s largest rare earth plant within weeks after Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin, chairman of the parliamentary committee, called it “the safest rare earth plant in the world.”
It also said in April that delays in obtaining the licence for its facility, which was initially approved in January, may have “very serious consequences” for the RM80 billion worth of rare earth orders already received as it is “sold out for the next 10 years.”