Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rally attracts over 5,000 protesters against Lynas plant

Various shades of green were spotted at the Kuantan Municipal Council field here as more than 5,000 supporters of Himpunan Hijau 2.0 gathered to protest against the construction of Lynas Corporation's rare earth processing plant in Gebeng.

The rally is part of an ongoing effort to stop the construction of the RM2.5 billion Australian-owned plant, citing health concerns from its radioactive waste.

The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) has given the company 10-months to submit plans for the permanent disposal facility, which is among conditions the company has to fulfil for a temporary operating liscense.

AELB has also ordered Lynas to pay USD50,000 (RM150,752) in installments over five years as a guarantee.

The enthusiastic crowd were mostly decked in lime green official Himpunan Hijau 2.0 t-shirts, PAS signature green t-shirts and shirts with emblems of non-governmental organisations, societies and political parties.

Others took it a step further by donning green make-up and face paint to look like eco-warriors.

At one corner of the field, some 20 students from Ayer Putih caught the crowd's attention with their striking hairstyles - spray painted green to match the day's theme.

Going traditional, members from several orang asli tribes around Pahang came dressed in their ancestral garbs: woven head dress and sash over green shirts.

Up on the main stage, some 40 leaders from opposition parties and civil society groups took turns to address the crowd from 10am.

Notably absent was Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Mansor who had reportedly said he might be present at the rally to meet with the people and hear their concerns over the issue.

The speeches were accompanied by the thumping beats of drums, kompangs and shrill whistles.

The main demand was for Lynas to halt all plans to set up it operations in the state and return to Australia.

The leaders also stressed that the Lynas issue is more then just a local issue for residents of Kuantan, or a political issue which affects only a particular group of people.

They urged the crowd gathered to unite in support of a national issue which has a long-standing impact for generations to come.

At about 10.40am, the crowd welcomed the arrival of Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim accompanied by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ibrahim, PKR vice president Nurul Izzah Anwar and PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution.

At 11.20am, Anwar finally took to the stage and addressed the eager crowd.

His short speech was the finale of the day's rally which ended almost 30 minutes earlier then the time stipulated in its permit, which was noon.

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