This is about Lynas. The facts are there.
An estimated 20,000 citizens together with Malaysian civil society organisations converged in Kuantan for a rally to protest against the Lynas project and to demand for a clean and safe future for Malaysia. The Stop Lynas campaign has escalated into the biggest ever environmental issue for the country. Participants arrived from all over the country including the east Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.
“Today marks the beginning of a nation-wide campaign to stop the Lynas rare earth project. Malaysians have made our stand and we do not want this hazardous project in our shore.” Said Mr Wong Tack, a key organiser of today’s event.
The Lynas rare earth refinery project was constructed with a speedy approval process without any public consultation or a waste management plan. It was not until March 2011 when the New York Times reported that the world’s largest rare earth plant was being built in the Industrial estate of Gebeng near Kuantan that residents were jolted into action to start protesting against it.
Last May Responding to public pressure, the Malaysian Government requested the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to review the project. The IAEA made 11 recommendations to the Malaysian Government. The Government adopted all of the 11 recommendations which included a more extensive public consultation and a waste management plan to address the permanent disposal of the radioactive waste and plant closure issues.
However, despite not having a safe permanent waste disposal plan and on-going public protests where over one thousands submissions were made to the Government in response to Lynas’ application for a licence, the Government issued a temporary operating licence to Lynas in early February. This has sparked outrage amongst Malaysians which culminated in this morning’s historical rally.
Mrs Phua Seet Ping, a rally organiser said, “We are peace loving citizens. I took part in this rally because I have two little children. Kuantan is a wonderful place to raise our children and I do NOT want Lynas to ruin that for my family.”
Malaysia has draconian laws which outlaw public actions. Yesterday, truck-loads of riot squat were paraded through the town to intimidate residents. The town council forced organisers of the rally to relocate it from the public field in the heart of the town to another further away in an attempt to hide the event from the general public’s view. These intimidations have done little to deter residents from coming out in force to show their strong opposition to the Lynas project.
Andansura, Chairperson of the Stop Lynas Coaltion was grateful and thankful for the strong presence of so many people. He said,
“I know many people living in villages close to the Lynas plant. They have been coerced into accepting the plant. They know the plant will pollute their fishing grounds but they are powerless to do much. Today, they know they are not alone in this struggle. It is heartening to see so many people.”
This is the first time ordinary people took to the street in such large numbers for an environmental issue in Malaysia. This is also the first time an environmental issue has gone national in such large-scale.
“Today’s turn out at the rally should show the Government of the day how strongly Malaysians feel about the Lynas plant and how far they will go to stop it. We comment the Government for not taking harsh actions against the protestors and we hope the Government will heed the people’s concerns by cancelling the licence. After all, it has a duty of care for its citizens and the natural environment over the vested interest of a foreign corporation!” Concluded Andan.