Lynas likely to get green light to stay — sources

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 27, 2018.
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KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya is likely to give its blessing to the controversial rare earth separation plant, Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), to remain in operation in Kuantan, Pahang, after the LAMP executive review committee presents its report to the government today.

Sources told The Edge Financial Daily that senior ministers in the cabinet are inclined to allow the plant to continue running, and Himpunan Hijau, the environmental group that is leading the protest against the plant, does not see much hope of closing the plant down after several encounters with the government. The plant is owned by Lynas Corp Ltd through Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Himpunan Hijau, the sources said, has not been able to convince the government that its decision should be based on precaution against possible ill-effects — however inconclusive — while Lynas’ argument that there is no absolute scientific proof that radiation from rare earth separation could cause illness has gained ground.

“They (Himpunan Hijau) are preparing now to at least persuade the government to not to allow LAMP [to] have a permenant disposal facility (PDF) in Malaysia, to force Lynas to ship their waste out of the country. It is a compromise, which is very sad,” one of the sources told The Edge Financial Daily.

This attempt to “limit the damage” of an expected green light for the plant comes in the form of a bipartisan caucus that was approved by Parliament yesterday, to study the report that will be presented by the LAMP review committee today.

The caucus’ role is to pressure the government to not accept all that Lynas wants to do here, the sources said. “They [the members of parliament who oppose the plant] created this caucus to do something, otherwise there is no way they can explain [why they didn’t do more] to the people who elected them ... those within Pakatan Harapan (PH) who are opposing Lynas are trying to strengthen scrutiny on the cabinet,” one of them said.

Himpunan Hijau chairman Wong Tack (PH-Bentong) and Nor Azrina Surip (PH-Merbok) will lead the nine-member caucus as chairman and deputy chairman respectively. “The caucus will study the report, and then engage the cabinet and make recommendations to protect the people and environment,” Wong told reporters when announcing the formation of the caucus yesterday.

Other members of the caucus are Khoo Poay Tiong (PH-Kota Melaka), Wong Shu Qi (PH-Kluang), Awang Hashim (PAS-Pendang), Datuk Hasbullah Osman (Barisan Nasional-Gerik), Hasanuddin Mohd Yunus (PH-Hulu Langat), Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya) and Chan Ming Kai (PH-Alor Setar).

Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin, who wrote in her blog in 2012 that she was against the plant after her own analysis, told The Edge Financial Daily in an interview last week that her personal stance on the issue remains.

She said “the benefit and the health of the people and the environment must be the priority of the government”. Nevertheless, she said the rule of law must also be upheld and that the government has to face some reality checks.

“Let’s see what happens on the Nov 27 (today). I try not to be biased or against it before Nov 27. I have my own personal view, that doesn’t change. But as the government, we must be open. Sometimes, there are due diligence that you need to go through, and what position we should take as a ministry,” she said.