Saturday, 21 May 2011

200 protest Lynas plant at Australian embassy

Protesters march from KLCC after Friday prayers to hand a memo to the embassy against the plant Protesters converged on the Australian high commission today as opponents of the on-going Lynas Advanced Material Plant (Lamp) project pile on the pressure against having a rare earth processing plant in Gebeng, Pahang.

NONEThis is the second such protest held in Kuala Lumpur since the first- held during the last Parliament meeting in March - barely two weeks before an international expert panel will spend six days here to scrutinise the project's safety aspects.

Some 200 people, made up of Kuantan residents, NGO representatives and members of PAS and PKR youth wings, gathered on the road some 50m from the high commission building just after Friday prayers at about 2pm, forming a tight group as around 100 police officers kept a watchful eye.

NONEFRU officers formed human barriers at the junction turning into Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, where the high commission office is located, but otherwise allowed the protesters to go about their business.

With chants of “Stop Lynas!” and “Kami bukan tikus makmal! (We are not lab rats!)”, the protesters cheered on a delegation of six as they went in to the high commission to present a memorandum on the Lynas controversy to the Australian government.

The memorandum, addressed to the Australian high commissioner to Malaysia, urged the Australian government to do all it can to make sure Malaysians are safe from the threat of potential radiation poisoning.

“We are not convinced by the assurances of Lamp, (and others allied to their cause), that the Lamp is safe. If it truly were so, surely then your country should readily keep that industry within its borders, or at the very least be prepared to take back the waste (which contains the deadly thorium).

“But your country has flatly refused to take back their own waste,” the memorandum read.

No guarantee of safety

Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas committee spokesperson Vincent Jiam, who was in the delegation, later said that the residents in Kuantan - just 20 minutes from Gebeng where the plant is being built - are outright opposed to the project.

NONE“On moral grounds, Lynas is taking advantage of our outdated environmental law. Because of the loophole in the law, it is easy for Lynas to bring in the ore from other places.

“We cannot control it... the ore will come not only from Australia by that time (the plant is operational). Who can stand there, count and check every packet (of ore)?

“We don't want the industry to start at all, regardless of whether it is safe or not safe. We don't want it because there is no guarantee (of safety),” he said, adding that they give Lynas till Aug 31 to pack up and leave.

Rare earth industry 'disastrous'

Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh echoed Jiam's concerns, questioning the moral fibre of Lynas' leadership in exploiting Malaysia's lax environmental protection.

“This industry is associated with much disaster. Nobody in the world wants to have it. Lynas said they got a licence in Australia, but why don't they do it there?

“I studied the matter and found that the requirements were too strict... in Australia you cannot have residents anywhere close-by. In Gebeng, you have 700,000 residents in a 35km radius (around the plant),” said Fuziah, who was also in the delegation.

The Lynas rare earth plant is expected to be completed by this September, despite facing public outrage over claims that its operations will produce radioactive waste that are potentially harmful to the public.

The Australian mining company and the Malaysian government have repeatedly assured that the plant will be safe and will not be a public hazard.

Growing public anger over the project however forced the government to moot the formation of an international expert panel formed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is expected to furnish the government with a report on the plant's safety by the end of June.