By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — A bipartisan parliamentary panel looking into Lynas Corp’s controversial rare earths plant must be given the power to decide the refinery’s fate, PKR vice president Fuziah Salleh said today.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had irked the project’s detractors when he said on Saturday the Parliamentary Select Committee’s (PSC) purpose was not to decide on the fate of the plant in Gebeng, Kuantan but was part of Putrajaya’s engagement process to ensure the public understood the issues at hand.
“If the government is sincere in wanting to study the safety of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), then the mandate to decide the fate and future of LAMP must be given to the committee,” Fuziah (picture) said when debating the motion to form the PSC.
The Kuantan MP has led opposition against the RM2.3 billion project that has raised fears of radiation pollution in her constituency.
She added that while the PSC sits for the allotted three months, all work on the plant must be halted, no rare earths ore can be imported and all agencies involved in the project must not make any statement on the matter.
Although the panel is to have three opposition members, the DAP has said it will abstain as it believes the PSC will be a “sham”.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had charged that the PSC was the Najib administration’s way of legitimising the plant that has received a conditional approval for a temporary operating licence (TOL).
Lim also urged other Pakatan Rakyat (PR) component parties to join the DAP in abstaining from joining the PSC.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said this morning the tenure of the PSC can be extended beyond its current three-month span to “complete and table a report containing recommendations to the Dewan Rakyat to be agreed on.”
The Cabinet agreed last week for form a bipartisan PSC to look into the Lynas controversy with nine members, four BN lawmakers, three PR MPs, one independent and Umno minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin as chairman.
Thousands of anti-Lynas protestors attended an opposition-backed rally by Himpunan Hijau last month in the largest protest yet against the rare earths plant that is expected to fire up later this year.
Critics of the refinery want Putrajaya to direct the nation’s nuclear regulator to reverse its decision to approve Lynas’ TOL, which will let the Australian miner embark on a two-year trial run.
They allege that Lynas has not given enough assurances on how it will handle the low-level radioactive waste that will be produced at the refinery.
The government has been under pressure from groups to shut down the rare earths project over safety fears, but Putrajaya has stood its ground on the project that was first earmarked for Terengganu.
Lynas maintains that waste from the Gebeng plant — which will be the largest rare earth refinery in the world upon completion — will not be hazardous and can be recycled for commercial applications.