Lynas shutdown will not affect FDI, says Kuantan MP

According to Fuziah, Malaysia remains open for all sustainable investments

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by ISMAIL CHE RUS

The potential closure of the rare earths processing operations of Lynas Corp Ltd in Malaysia will not affect foreign direct investment (FDI) to Malaysia, said Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh.

Fuziah said Malaysia remains open for all investments as long as it is sustainable and complies with local regulations.

“There will be no issue of FDI as Malaysia is a country which is open to all sustainable investments. If we look at Gebeng, Pahang, where Lynas is operating, there are many manufacturing companies that complied with the law and there is no reason why Lynas could not,” she told reporters at the Global Halal Summit 2019 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Fuziah — one of Lynas’ biggest critics — has claimed the firm’s rare earths mining site is already being contaminated with heavy metals even after five years of operation.

“This will have an effect on the village folks living around Gebeng, some of whom are still dependent on tube wells for their daily water use. It will also pollute the waterways around Gebeng,” she was reported as saying.

Lynas, in response, said it has complied with local regulations and that the community has been given explanations on the issue with scientific facts.

“The review committee did not suggest that any increase in the concentration of heavy metals in groundwater was due to Lynas,” the firm said.

Fuziah also described the recent statement by Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof on Lynas as merely a “personal opinion”, as the ministry responsible for the matter is the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC).

Mohd Redzuan was earlier reported as saying the government would extend the permit of the rare earths mining company to operate in Pahang as it will attract more foreign investments.

Last year, MESTECC outlined two conditions required for Lynas to fulfil before renewing its operating permits and licences in Malaysia.

One of the conditions is to remove the accumulated water leached purification residue, which contains radioactive materials, from Malaysia.

The company’s existing temporary storage licence expires on Sept 2, 2019.

Separately, Fuziah said the government plans to implement the National Halal Council Act, a mandate established to support the Malaysia Halal Council (MHC), by early 2020.

Fuziah — who is also deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (religious affairs) — said the Act will streamline the roles of ministries involved in the country’s halal initiatives and development.

“There are many ministries and agencies with various roles which are involved in our halal industry, and they need an Act to streamline their responsibilities to avoid overlapping roles,” she said.

“All this while, we have the MHC — but without the Act, there is no clear picture of the responsibilities of each ministry and agency. With this Act, all the roles will be clear,” she added.

Currently, Malaysia’s halal ecosystem encompasses 12 ministries and 342 halalrelated agencies including those in research and development, and marketing.

“The draft stage is nearly done, and from the first meeting of the MHC chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail recently, we have discussed the various roles of the ministries and lead agencies, and the draft of the bill will be tabled soon.

“Once the roles have been agreed, we will bring it to the attorney general,” she said.

Commenting on the country’s halal manufacturing production, Fuziah said Malaysian producers — particularly in the food and beverage (F&B) segment — need to intensify their capabilities to compete with other producing countries.

“In terms of business, I believe there are other countries ahead of us. If you look at Thailand which is a Muslim minority country, they are succeeding in the halal F&B business.

“This is where agencies such as our Halal Industry Development Corp need to work harder to develop their capability as this is beyond the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia’s (Jakim) scope of work,” she said.

Currently, Fuziah said Jakim is reviewing 40 applications of foreign halal certification bodies to be recognised by Malaysia.

“Some countries are requesting recognition for more than one of their certification bodies. For example, Japan has six bodies that are recognised by us, while the UK has two,” she said.

As at Feb 13, 2019, Jakim recognised 78 foreign global halal certification agencies from 45 countries.