Govt will stand by experts’ views on Lynas, says Dr M

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by BERNAMA

PRIME Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) is firm on the government’s recent decision to grant an extension to Lynas Corp Ltd’s processing plant operating licence, despite public protests demanding the rule to be overturned.

Dr Mahathir said experts have concluded there is no danger in the wastes produced by the plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, following a thorough examination on the site.

“I want to stick by what is reported by the experts. If this is a very dangerous material then we will, of course, put a stop (to it), but the report says that it is not dangerous,” Dr Mahathir told reporters after officiating the 62nd International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress 2019 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

It was reported that some 400 anti-Lynas protesters had gathered at Taman Gelora, Pahang, yesterday, calling the move a form of “environmental colonialism” and demanded the resignation of Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh and Bentong MP Wong Tack who were unsuccessful in their campaign to put an end to Lynas’ operations in Malaysia. Police said organisers of the rally, however, failed to get approval for the gathering.

“(They) are insisting that there is danger, despite whatever the experts say. That is very difficult for the government to decide because popular view is one thing, and experts’ view is another thing. Do you go according to (the) popular view or do you go according to experts?” Dr Mahathir said.

The 94-year-old, who is currently serving his second tenure as PM, likened the dissent to objections made against the Penang Bridge when it was first mooted in the early 1970s. “Remember when we wanted to build Penang Bridge? There was so much opposition to it — we are wasting money, we can’t afford it, etc — and now they want to build another bridge, and they want to build another tunnel.

“We cannot always listen to popular views, especially now where a small group of people can make use of alternative media to promote their ideas to the extent that anybody who goes against them gets hammered,” he explained.

“It is not Chernobyl. Chernobyl, yes, it is very dangerous. This is not going to be dangerous, and the people who are working there — there are 700 very highly qualified people working there — they are not afraid and they have not complained.

“But somebody, some neighbours have complained. So, we have a choice, either we get rid of this industry and lose credibility in terms of dealing with foreign direct investment, or we go ahead and take care of what is considered to be a problem when there is no problem,” Dr Mahathir added.

The government last week renewed Lynas’ operating licence for its rare-earths processing facility for six months with new conditions. Among which includes the identification of a site for a permanent facility to store its low-level radioactive waste within the next six months.

Lynas said it is confident it would be able to satisfy the requirements set.

On a separate note, Dr Mahathir said those who viewed the Pakatan Harapan government in the same light as Barisan Nasional (BN) are being unfair, given several glaring differences.

“Did we borrow RM42 billion, did we have our own 1Malaysia Development Bhd? Did I steal money, did I bribe people? Prove it. If I bribe people, you can take me to the courts and charge me. I mean to say, ‘oh there is no difference’, only a blind, deaf and dumb person will say that there is no difference,” he said, adding that the government is working to limit the period of office of the PM to two terms, something which the BN government had failed to do in the past.