Wednesday, June 20, 2012

DAP dares Lynas PSC chief to reside near Kuantan plant

The DAP today dared Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin, the chairman of the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on the controversial Lynas rare earth refinery, to “prove his sincerity” by relocating his family to live next to the Kuantan plant.

The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) has sparked public protests over health concerns, but a PSC report tabled in Parliament this week said that “scientific facts” showed it was safe and called for the approval of a temporary operating licence (TOL).

Australia-based Lynas Corp had said last month that it was on track to start up its rare earth plant in Malaysia within weeks after Khaled called it “the safest rare earth plant in the world.”

“If Datuk Seri Khaled can describe Lamp as ‘the safest rare earth plant in the world’, then when is he moving his family next door to the RM700 million rare earth processing plant in Gebeng, Kuantan,” said Lim Guan Eng, the DAP’s secretary-general.

“His comments on the safest rare earth plant in the world, made even before the PSC report on Lamp was tabled to Parliament, clearly confirms suspicions that the PSC is designed to ‘whitewash’ the issue and legitimatise the operation of Lamp,” Lim said in a statement today.

When asked if he would stay next to the plant, Khaled had yesterday said: “Why not?”

Lim also attacked Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders over the PSC report and said that they had failed “to listen to the concerns of the people”.

He compared the Australian government with Malaysia’s ruling BN coalition, saying: “Clearly the Australian government places the welfare, health and environment of their citizens as more important than profits.”

“On the other hand, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is committed to allowing LAMP to operate as BN values profits more than people’s health,” Lim said.

Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers had earlier questioned the point of the select committee given that the prime minister had already said the government would not be bound by the panel’s findings.

The Bagan MP also said that BN’s decision “to adopt the PSC report in Parliament yesterday exposes the deception of the people and hypocrisy of MCA leaders, including its President Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, who had pretended to oppose the Lamp.”

The MCA had said in April that it would not agree to the issuance of a permit to Lynas Corp for its rare earth refinery here if waste from the plant is not shipped overseas.

Dr Chua had also said the party would not support the Lynas plant if scientific evidence proves it would endanger the lives of residents living near the Gebeng, Kuantan site or the environment.

The PSC report favouring Lynas comes just four days after the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) dismissed an appeal against the Australian miner’s plant by residents living nearby and instead imposed two conditions that Lynas says it will have no problems meeting.

Lynas had told The Malaysian Insider it would submit proposals to meet the new terms which appear to be the final obstacles in obtaining a long-awaited TOL which was approved in February but was held up due to the opposition from the residents.

However, residents, who filed the appeal to MOSTI, 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.”

Lynas 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.”

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