NGO Himpunan Hijau says the minister is not honest when he claimed that the majority of Malaysians were in favour of the Lynas plant.
KOTA KINABALU: Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Maximus Ongkili, has been accused of not telling the truth when he claimed that the majority of Malaysians want Australian rare earths miner Lynas to fire up its plant in Kuantan and begin production.
Himpunan Hijau, a coalition of environment-conscious NGOs and civil groups, said the minister was being dishonest in making such a claim when it was well-known that thousands had been protesting the government’s go-ahead for the project.
Wong Tack, chairman of Himpunan Hijau national steering committee that is leading the fight to block the company from beginning operations, said Ongkili was conjuring up figures out of nothing to push ahead with the project.
“To say the majority of Malaysians are in favour of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) project is without basis and is just another ploy to manipulate the rakyat into accepting a project that can bring massive irreversible damage to this nation.
“Even if we put the issue of manipulation aside, in principle, is it acceptable to say that if one has more power or a bigger number, then one can bulldoze things through at the expense of people’s suffering?” asked Wong.
“Probably this is the mindset of Ongkili… probably this is why for years he has allowed his own people, the indigenous people of Sabah, to be marginalised and run over,” he added.
Himpunan Hijau also deplored the the minister’s claim that the decision to issue the temporary operating licence for the plant was based on scientific evidence.
“Ongkili, as a minister tasked with the responsibility to advise the top leader of this nation with science and facts, has continued to fail in his duty.
“He has continued to base his decisions on non-independent, one-sided, so-called scientific information from the project proponent. We seriously questioned his credibility. As we clearly remember, he once said that the waste from a rare earth refinery can be discharged into the drain,” said Wong.
Ignoring people’s sentiment
He pointed out how Ongkili had tried to intimidate opponents of the project by saying that those who participated in Himpunan Hijau’s blockade campaign would be dealt with by the relevant authorities for breaking the law.
“As a minister, Ongkili has allowed all the departments and agencies under his care to break all laws and regulations throughout the entire approval process of the LAMP project so, who is actually violating the law here?” asked Wong.
He said though the minister might be in a position of power, he was ignoring the sentiment of the people.
“This proves how much our leaders have disassociated themselves from the grassroots and the community,” he added.
Widespread protests over concerns about possible radioactive residue have drawn thousands of people at a time and the project has become a hot topic ahead of a general election expected to be held soon.
Thousands have rallied in Pahang since the beginning of the year calling on the government to overturn its approval to operate the rare earths processing plant located in Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s base.
The plant is considered important to efforts to break China’s grip on rare earths that are used in products ranging from smartphones to hybrid cars.