By Lisa J. Ariffin
KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — Kuantan residents may resort to engaging the help of the Australian courts to boot Lynas Corporation from their backyard, PKR MP Fuziah Salleh said today, warning Barisan Nasional (BN) of yet another international controversy that could affect its support at the ballot boxes.
Dangling the Scorpene scandal nightmare as a reminder to the ruling pact, the PKR vice-president said the Najib administration’s refusal to pull the plug on Lynas Corp’s rare earth project would not go down easy with voters.
“The people of Kuantan will not give up that easily. As long as the lives of people are affected, we will continue to fight,” the Kuantan MP declared in a statement here.
“In fact, it may even end up like the Scorpene case in a foreign court.”
The Scorpene submarine case, which has been alleged to have links to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the 2006 brutal murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaaribuu, is currently under probe in the French courts.
Fuziah (picture), who has been leading her constituents into fierce protests against the RM2.5 billion refinery in the Gebeng Industrial Estate, Kuantan, was responding to reports yesterday that the government had rejected the appeal by residents to overturn Lynas Corp’s temporary occupational license (TOL).
“I am not discounting the fact that the Kuantan people may have to pursue civil suits in the Australian courts against Lynas,” Fuziah warned.
“This, however, will be done only after the issue cannot be resolved locally,” she added.
Yesterday, Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) Minister Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili rejected an appeal by Gebeng villagers against the government’s decision to approve a TOL for the Lynas plant, citing a lack of justification for such a move.
Instead, the government had imposed two new conditions on the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp), telling the company to submit a plan to immobilise radioactive elements in its waste, and to come up with an emergency response plan on dust control.
In response, Fuziah said “instead of insisting on a concrete Long Term Radioactive Waste Management Plan, the Minister has instead written two other requirements which appear to be too general in nature”.
She added the conditions would not be able to assure the people that radioactive contamination would not occur on the site or elsewhere.
“This is aside from the 10 other requirements laid out by IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) upon Lynas which are still being questioned by the public,” she said.
Anti-Lynas group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) spokesperson Tan Bun Teet mirrored Fuziah’s sentiments, asking “Which of those recommendations has in practice been followed through?”
“Yet the AELB with the blessing of the MOSTI went ahead to approve the TOL for Lynas,” he added.
Tan said the group will now proceed to challenge the ministry’s decision in court.
“SMSL and concerned residents of Kuantan will proceed to take on the government through the court as soon as the Parliamentary Select Committee has revealed the finding of its inquiry.”
Najib had said on Wednesday that Putrajaya was yet to decide the status of Lynas Corp’s controversial rare earth refinery, a RM2.5 billion project which has been the subject of fierce protests by residents in the prime minister’s home state.
He told Malaysians during a live Internet chat session that the government first wants to be “fully satisfied” that residents are “convinced” of the plant’s safety before making its decision.
Lynas had said last month that it was on track to start up its rare earth plant in Malaysia next month after Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin, chairman of the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on the refinery that has raised fears of radiation pollution, called it “the safest rare earth plant in the world.”
It also 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.”
The Lynas PSC was approved by the Dewan Rakyat during the March sitting amid opposition furore over the alleged lack of terms of reference and suspicion that the nine-man panel would be used to “whitewash” the issue.
Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers have also questioned the point of the select committee given that Najib had earlier already said that the government would not be bound by the panel’s findings.