KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Dozens of environmental and rights groups issued a scathing indictment today accusing the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration of siding with Lynas and selling Malaysians out for hefty profits, by allowing the corporation to continue operating here.
Up to 88 NGOS signed a strong-worded petition urging the government to discontinue the rare earth miner’s operating licence, and called out Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and two of his ministers for statements deemed apologetic of the Australian firm.
The Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas (SMSL) coalition said they are “appalled” by the Cabinet’s decision to let Lynas remain in Malaysia, even after suspicions were raised about the firm’s commitment to ship back over half a million tonnes worth of toxic waste out of the country.
“Spreading out radioactive waste will expose more people to its hazards.
“Is Tun so obsessed with Lynas and its toxic investment that our health and our environment no longer matters to him?” the grassroots said in a statement.
Dr Mahathir said in May that Lynas can continue to process rare earth in the country, in a shock decision that caught many by surprise and sparked strong reaction from rights groups and local communities, as they saw the move as PH rescinding its own pledge to shut the firm down.
The prime minister’s call came despite repeated warnings by activists about the toxic pollution that may stem from rare earth processing.
SMSL activists also said Lynas had misled Malaysia by giving two undertakings to remove its toxic radioactive waste from Malaysia, even though Western Australia (WA) had made it clear back in 2011 that its waste would not be accepted into WA.
“Now there are nearly half a million tonnes of waste sitting in inadequate storage dams that leak and overflow to contaminate our groundwater and the surrounding environment with nowhere to go,” the group said.
SMSL also rapped Minister of Entrepreneur Development Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof and Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources of Malaysia Xavier Jeyakumar, who defended Lynas as an important investor.
“We are appalled by the Flying Car Minister Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof advocating for Lynas to keep the toxic waste in Malaysia and more recently, the Bauxite Minister Xavier Jayakumar on rare earth heat wanting to exploit the country’s projected RM700 billion rare earth resources,” it said.
“That RM700 billion price tag is more like what Malaysia would have to pay to clean up Lynas’ mega toxic waste and spread-out contamination in 10 years’ time.”
SMSL claimed the potential healthcare costs of rising cancer cases to be treated and the losses sustained by fishery and tourism industries due to the firm’s toxic wastes would outweigh the benefits of retaining Lynas.
Shutting down Lynas was one of PH’s key election pledges, but the coalition made a full turnabout and said the firm could continue to operate here if its waste is shipped out of the country amid protest.