By Arveent Kathirtchelvan

With the mythical year of 2020 now a reality, the first of the Pakatan Harapan cabinet of ministers has resigned. Unfortunately, Dr. Maszlee, our now former Education Minister, might not be the one who needed to go. It doesn’t take much to see that, of the entire cabal of ministers we have had so far, Dr. Maszlee was one that actually seemed to take his job seriously.

Whilst he has been criticised during his tenure quite viciously, there was some progress towards his motto of ‘Education For All’. For example, he introduced a free breakfast program at schools, abolished examinations for students from Years 1 to 3 and even allowed stateless and undocumented children to attend school. On top of this, Dr. Maszlee also was the first minister that met with the Network of Government Contract Workers (Jaringan Pekerja Kontrak Kerajaan, JPKK) and was involved with the plans to do away with the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA). Despite all the pressure put onto him, Dr. Maszlee still managed to deliver some important steps towards a better structured education system. If any minister deserved some time to properly flesh out their policies, it was Dr. Maszlee.

A Nuclear Disaster

This, however, cannot be said for many of his peers. Particularly, one minister delivered not much more than disappointments for those in the know. This, of course, is the Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), YB Yeo Bee Yin. Specifically, YB Yeo has demonstrated a deep lack of respect for stakeholders with first-hand knowledge of certain scientific issues, preferring instead to unilaterally make decisions not based on actual facts.

A look-back at Malaysia’s energy policies reveals much is in the way of progress. YB Yeo stresses upon the need to develop clean energy options for Malaysia. However, almost 2 years after she had become a minister, these remain vague notions still. The only real work that has been done is promoting solar power, which seems viable at first, but has associated frailties that make it insufficient to properly decarbonise our energy mix. As written before, solar power, while producing cheap electricity in optimum conditions, fails to do so indefinitely. With high temperatures, cloudy weather and night time, the production of electricity from solar panels wanes. Most solar panels realistically only produce about a fifth of the power they are rated for and only at specific times. This means a variable electricity generation source is needed as a backup whenever solar power production slows. Usually, natural gas peaking is used for this purpose, but this power source is not only carbon intensive but extremely expensive.

Shockingly, the minister also closed the Malaysian Nuclear Power Corporation (MNPC) without allowing the reports prepared by the corporation to be presented to the ministry. These reports cost the Malaysian public more than RM 40 million and included detailed information about the viability of nuclear power for Malaysia. For a minister who seems concerned with environmental improvements, YB Yeo is unfairly prejudiced against the only scalable, proven source of clean energy that has successfully kept the carbon footprint of many nations small. France, Canada and Sweden, for example, have very clean electricity which is produced continuously partly or mostly due to nuclear power. Nowadays, countries like Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates and Belarus are building their first nuclear power plants, with many others expressing interest, whilst China, India and Russia, lead the way with many new nuclear builds coming online.

However, the minister seems content with standing by the pre-election stance of her political party in instilling unnecessary fear of radiation within their supporters. Back when they were part of the opposition, it was convenient to use this fear as a weapon against Barisan Nasional. A deep existential fear of probable cancer would band voters against the identified enemy which may boost their ratings. That time, though, has now passed. As a government, it is now imperative for Pakatan Harapan to deliver proper results, not just beat around the bush to keep their ruse going.

What is especially tragic is that there is seemingly no end to coal power plants, with the first unit of two coal power plants owned by Jimah East Power recently achieving commercial operation. Another will come online by December 2020. Coal-firing produces fly ash, a substance with as much as 100 times the radioactivity released by nuclear power plants. In fact, the whole petrochemical industry produces sludges many times more radioactive than that released by nuclear power plants. Radioactive material from petrochemical facilities are even allowed to be recycled even when they are many times more radioactive than that from a nuclear power plant. Such is the extent of the bias against nuclear power.

Lies on Lynas

The minister’s party also unabashedly used Lynas Corp to further their own political agenda. Lynas is a rare-earth refining facility that produces, mainly, neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) which is a raw material to produce high-strength magnets. The refinement process produces some by-products of low radioactivity, many times lower than conservative safety limits. Lynas showed impressive responsibility in handling this by-product in a safe and secure manner with their temporary Residue Storage Facilities and even guaranteed Permanent Disposal Facilities (PDF) to be built when needed. This was overlooked by YB Yeo’s party in demonising the company when they were part of the opposition, with their secretary-general even calling Lynas a nuclear power plant.

This attitude continued when the good minister ordered a review of Lynas’s activities. When this came out in support of Lynas, calling the company safe and even a good investment, the minister was having none of it. She began to call for Lynas to remove all their residue immediately to Australia or risk losing their operating license. This was in direct violation of their licensing terms, whereby the residue was first to be researched upon to be recycled, stored permanently in a PDF if the first option fails and only if those two options have failed, be exported out of Malaysia. The minister, trying to save face, continued to skew the narrative and, with her colleague from the same party, YB Wong Tack, continued to deceive the people of Malaysia.

Saddening indeed, this whole incident, as Lynas remains a potential lynchpin to Malaysia’s liberation from dependency on global superpowers. If we strategically partner with Lynas to use their products in developing government-backed downstream industries producing rare-earth products such as the aforementioned magnets, we may become the preferred supplier for many nations looking to develop electronics and, especially, electric cars. Western nations with the economic capability to expand these industries often look to dissociate themselves with China’s domineering influence in the rare-earth market to not be unduly manipulated in the future. With over 80% of the market supplied by China, it is only Lynas that can provide a viable alternative with its 15% share.

Looking Forwards

Dr. Maszlee’s resignation comes as a bitter beginning to 2020. He was a minister who seemed the complete opposite of YB Yeo. Humble, visionary and committed to a goal of proper growth, Dr. Maszlee was shaping a decidedly difficult part of Malaysian society slowly towards betterment. YB Yeo blatantly shows a lack of these qualities, and so do many of her colleagues. Unlike Dr. Maszlee, their collective ineptitude is slowing Malaysia’s growth and stands in the way of Malaysians’ growth. If anything, Dr. Maszlee’s resignation might lead to a cabinet reshuffle. Whether this would lead to any substantial changes for the better is uncertain. What is, though, is that if Malaysia should have a cleaner, more technologically advanced future, it is MESTECC that needs changing.

4 thoughts on “The Deception of A Cleaner Malaysia

  1. Its time to go Nuclear as its the way forward. Up to now it has proven to be reliable and clean energy. I wholly support your efforts.

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  2. Well, Yeo Bee Yin no longer is MESTECC Minister and the Pakatan Harapan government is gone and replaced by Muhyiddin government, so now is your chance to convince the new government about nuclear power, Lynas and so forth.
    However, better wait until after parliament sits in case aggrieved MPs move a motion of no-confidence against Muhyiddin as PM, in which case Muhyiddin must resign as PM, his government falls and most likely a snal election will have to be called, and after that if Muhtiddin’s party, coalition or pact is voted back, then you can make your move to convince them to support your case.

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  3. This brilliant analytical video on the contradictions of global imperialism by Prolekult speaks about the role of oil and gas as being the main commodities behind U.S. imperialism’s wars and aggression around the world, and some nation states’ attempts to break free of US dollar hegemony. This is one very strong argument in favour of your arguments in favour of the adoption of nuclear power:-
    Everything Under Heaven

    Instead of arguing primarily for nuclear power as an environmentally clean alternative to fossil fuels, including oil & gas, you should also argue based upon its geo-political advantages for the liberation of nation states from the oil & gas economy and hegemony of the US dollar and US imperialism over them.
    However, the problem facing Malaysia, is our economy’s heavy reliance on our oil resources for the foreign exchange to support our economy and pay for subsidies, social services, infrastructure development and so forth, and oil, gas and coal are our natural resources, whilst we will have to import uranium from somewhere to fuel nuclear power plants, which means dependence on other countries for uranium supply.
    You believe that we have enough domestic Thorium sources, though Thorium-fuelled reactors are still a developing technology.
    Former socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, the former socialist states of Eastern-Europe and some of the handful which remain had and have adopted nuclear power to some extent, so anti-nuclear power stance is not a socialist one, though many of the western liberal-left, social democrats and even the western far left have adopted an anti-nuclear power stance as “progressive”, though they may not realise that many of these anti-nuclear power positions are financed by industry interest groups which see nuclear power as a threat to their industry, which has the potential to creatively destroy their industry.
    However today, there are several on the far left who are breaking away from this anti-nuclear stance and advocate the role which nuclear fission and in the future fusion can play in providing an abundant, almost inexhaustible supply of cheap energy needed to provide the abundance required to sustain a future socialist society.
    That said, I do not dismiss the role which wind, solar power and hydro power can also play in breaking nation states’ reliance on oil & gas, though due to the availability of open land, days of clear skies, areas with strong and constant enough wind and suitable geographic features for hydro power, thus wind, solar and hydro power may not be practical alternatives for some countries.
    Your arguments for nuclear power based upon comparative Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE), cost of solar panels, ecological problems faced by the the disposal and recycling of used solar panels, number of deaths per megawatt hour or gigawatt hours and so forth are the kind of arguments put forward by bourgeois special interest groups, technology fanboys, bourgeois economists and so forth.
    Instead, if you are a socialist as you claim you are, you should put forth the socialist and anti-imperialist case of nuclear power., as well as other forms of renewable energy sources which will free countries from the dominance of oil & gas hegemony.
    Imperialist globalisation and dominance by finance capitalism are the worst enemy facing the workers and humanity today.
    Meanwhile, you may want to watch Prolekult’s over two hour long video – History is Marching, which begins with the contradictions of early capitlism, through imperialism, the dominance of finance capitalism and its relationship to neo-colonialism through financial dominance, imperilaist globalisation, the environmental crisis and so forth.
    History is Marching

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  4. I was shocked to see the PSM calling for the government to remove the subsidy of fuel at the pump in light of the sudden plunge in the price of Brent Crude.

    PSM CALLS UPON GOVERNMENT TO REMOVE THE FUEL SUBSIDY
    http://politischeiss.blogspot.com/2020/03/psm-calls-upon-government-to-remove.html

    The proper demand a socialist or a social-democrat should make is to demand that the government tightly controls the fuel price at the pump.

    After all, in the run up to GE14, Pakatan Harapan promised to drop the fuel price to RM1.50 per litre, which would have required strong state intervention, which would have been anathema to neo-liberals but the Pakatan government did not .

    On the other hand, the Muhyiddin government dropped the price of Ron95 petrol to RM1.89 per litre at least for this week. Populism ?? Perhaps but the net effect for us the public, is that petrol is cheaper.

    The government should make sure that the price of fuel at the pump follows the price of Brent Crude and adjust the fuel subsidy or even zero it as appropriate.

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