By Arveent Kathirtchelvan
I am not even surprised anymore at how seemingly nobody is doing their due diligence in learning about Lynas before commenting on it. Since I have extensively covered this topic factually in Liberasi, let me take a different route in replying to Mr. Dennis Ignatius’s article titled ‘Lynas, a betrayal of trust’.
Unlike what Mr. Ignatius believes, the one who has betrayed his trust is not Dr. Mahathir but the very environment minister he deems to have undertaken sterling efforts.
The Three Stooges
Let me ask a simple question. If the cadre of YBs Wong Tack, Fuziah Salleh and Yeo Bee Yin are so adamant of the dangers of Lynas, why can’t they prove their claims? Let’s look at the checklist shall we? Until today, the three have made some pretty wild claims based on absolutely no solid evidence. Fuziah Salleh insists the groundwater near the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (LAMP) is contaminated due to Lynas when the Executive Committee report makes no such claims and her own compatriot, Dr. Xavier Jayakumar’s ministry, admitted there is solid evidence to absolve Lynas of this blame.
Wong Tack keeps pouting and repeatedly insists that Lynas has broken Malaysian laws when the Executive Committee report has found the LAMP to be highly compliant to local laws and even shows proof of Lynas having the proper documentation to store their wastes. From his stance of closing the LAMP, Wong Tack has now backed down to insisting that strict conditions be placed on Lynas to remove their wastes. Again, we see no such recommendation in any audit reports thus far and the proper waste disposal method is permanent disposal, which Lynas is ready and willing to undertake.
Then we come to the most disappointing member of this trio, Yeo Bee Yin. UTP-educated on a Petronas Scholarship in Chemical Engineering, Cambridge-educated on a Gates Cambridge Scholarship in Advanced Chemical Engineering is YBM Yeo. I was initially so impressed with her that I thought she could do no wrong. Yet, months later, like a petulant child throwing tantrums when their proven to be wrong, YBM Yeo has insisted to go to Western Australia herself to meet with their government and attempt to convince them to import the LAMP wastes. Hilariously, the Western Australia government has doubled-down on their stance of not accepting any such waste, whilst stating it is up to YBM Yeo if she still wants to meet.
But let me go further. Mr. Ignatius is painfully misled if he believes there is any nefarious undertones to situating the LAMP in Malaysia. It’s basic business. Things are cheaper in Malaysia compared to Australia. Simply the steel involved in building the LAMP costs many times more in Australia compared to Malaysia. This was the bargaining chip the former government used to bring in Lynas in exchange for upskilling our workforce, bring in more foreign direct investment and potentially build downstream industries dependent on Lynas products.
Moreover, the environmental regulation in Malaysia is more onerous, not less, compared to Australia and international standards. For example, placards indicating radioactivity is unnecessary for material below 10 Bq/g internationally. In Malaysia, this necessity kicks in at 1 Bq/g. On top of this, as proven throughout the years Lynas has operated in Malaysia, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the leading experts in the field, has successfully audited LAMP and found them compliant as well. When it comes to the LAMP, there has been no slack in monitoring.
On the use of Lynas wastes to produce soil conditioner, the Condisoil product has been proven to be safe to use and laboratory research has shown that certain plants (corn, kenaf and grass) grow better with Condisoil. The radioactive and supposedly dangerous metals in the Condisoil have been assessed by experts to be diluted enough to not be dangerous. This is part of the internationally accepted method of waste management called dilute and disperse, which is what Dr. Mahathir was probably alluding to when he suggested to “spread [the radioactive waste] around somewhere so as not to have concentrated radioactive material in one place”. It isn’t absurd or flippant, as Mr. Ignatius puts it, rather it is surprisingly erudite from the famously anti-nuclear Prime Minister. However, if not producing Condisoil, it is much easier and straightforward to simply store the Lynas waste material in permanent disposal facilities instead.
Finally, Mr. Ignatious, bereft of any useful ideas, throws a Hail Mary in linking Lynas with the horrific Asian Rare Earth incident in Bukit Merah. Time and again it has been pointed out by experts, most recently in the Executive Committee report mentioned earlier, that Lynas is not the same as ARE. Lynas is much more compliant, well-managed and stringently audited so there is no possibility of a ‘toxic legacy’ to be left by the plant.
All in all, Mr. Ignatius’s rant has been a tiring slog to get through. He, like other anti-Lynas mouthpieces, is deeply misled and does not understand the process, management and business of the LAMP to comment on how it is run. Moreover, he shows a deep lack of knowledge on waste management and radiation. Perhaps it’s his bias to favour Yeo Bee Yin. Perhaps not.
If it was the former though, let me state it very clearly. The drama she, Wong Tack and Fuziah Salleh have orchestrated is a simple-minded attempt to gain political traction. How else would we explain this ridiculous video of YB Fuziah Salleh slandering Lynas of causing mutations (without any proof) or this video of our finance minister blatantly lying about Lynas being a nuclear power plant or YBM Yeo Bee Yin not visiting the LAMP after 9 invitations or the fact that Wong Tack has repeatedly made false assertions, which have been refuted by the Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia here?
Look, facts are facts, and it blatantly obvious now that the Harapan machinery, particularly that of DAP, are propagating nonsense about Lynas for political clout. It is even clearer when they haven’t said a word about petroleum sludge or coal fly ash which are much more radioactive substances than Lynas wastes anyway. It is time we grow up and reject these lies being fed to us. And that is the tea, served piping hot.