Saturday, May 21, 2011

Anti-Lynas

This morning, I was at Management House to attend the MIMKL Toastmasters meeting. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give this meeting a 5, not exactly the sort of meeting that can perk me up though. Anyway, this was one of those rare occasions where I do not play any role and I could just sit back to listen to wonderful speeches.

About 250 anti-Lynas Corp lobbyists braved the rain and heavy police presence in Kuala Lumpur yesterday to protest against the construction of the Australian miner’s RM700 million rare earth refinery in Kuantan.

Faced with a barricade of riot police, scores of police officers and seven police trucks near the Australian embassy in Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, the protestors – some of whom had travelled from Kuantan – continued to shout “Stop Lynas!” as they expressed concerns over possible radiation pollution from the Gebeng plant that is touted to be the biggest in the world upon completion.

“Go back to Australia! Save Malaysia! We are not lab rats!” shouted the protestors, most of whom were dressed in black T-shirts printed with a yellow anti-nuclear logo and the words “Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas!”

Those opposing the plant rightly fear a repeat of the radiation pollution from a similar plant in Bukit Merah, Ipoh. The Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant in Perak has been linked to birth defects and at least eight cases of leukemia in the past five years, seven of which were fatal. Nearly 20 years after it was shuttered, the plant is still the subject of a massive RM300 million cleanup exercise. Yet, we still won’t learn because the state of Pahang is determined to see the Lynas project proceed. As their Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob said the other day, the issue was being unnecessarily politicized. In fact, as reported in Harakah Daily on April 19, he had angrily suggested that the whole Gebeng industrial zone be shut down should Lynas be told to pack up. “If the people really feel strongly about it, then we can recommend for a total closure of Gebeng, and we shall see the reaction of the 20,000 people working there and that of their families,” this awful man said citing that every industry in Gebeng, the nation's chemical and petrochemical hub, produced some form of emission (Webpage http://en.harakahdaily.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2645:amid-intense-protest-aussie-firm-set-to-push-through-hazardous-plant&catid=36:headline&Itemid=70). What he is really saying is that the Lynas investment is important and people’s health are not – so screw you, Kuantan residents!

If this rare earth refinery is really safe – as Lynas claims – why won’t Lynas build it in Australia itself? After all, the raw material comes from the Mount Weld mine in Western Australia and it will have to be shipped 2,598 miles (the distance between Fremantle, the nearest Australian port and Kuantan, Malaysia) to be processed. Isn’t this a very costly arrangement? Moreover, the residues are to be stored here – supposedly in safe, reliable engineered storage cells that are designed so that there is no possibility for any leakage of material into the environment. Don’t our authorities know that no radioactive material could be classified as safe? If Japan's nuclear emergency following the tragic earthquake and tsunami in March has taught us anything at all, it is that the unpredictability of events and their potential magnitude can have a devastating impact on unsuspecting citizens.
Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh was right to politicize this because otherwise, the government rides roughshod over us ordinary folks!

1 comment:

Belinda said...

Radioactivity, radioactivity. The sky is falling in. What nonsense. Please be objective in your blog.
Belinda