Lynas employees protest outside Parliament

Lynas employees seen protesting outside the Parliament building today.

KUALA LUMPUR: Around 130 employees from the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng, Kuantan, held a demonstration outside the Parliament building today following Putrajaya’s threat to revoke the company’s permit if it fails to remove its radioactive waste from Malaysia.

Wearing yellow jackets, the employees who consisted of supervisors, technicians and plant workers, held banners reading “Experts Know Best”, “We Are The People of Lynas” and “Save Our Jobs”.

They voiced hope that the government would allow Lynas to keep its permit as they risked losing their jobs if LAMP shuts down.

Jumaat Mansor, the facility’s senior human resources manager, said the workers travelled from Kuantan last night and had been gathering outside Parliament since 8.15am.

“Only 3% of us (employees) are Australian; everyone else working at the facility are locals.

“We have been reviewed a total of eight times. All of the findings were positive, and our operations were found to be safe,” he added.

Urging the government to take into account the committee review report, he said the committee had recommended that a permanent disposal facility (PDF) be built, with the waste sent back to Australia only if the facility fails.

“These recommendations were changed by Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin, who decided that the waste must be returned to Australia, bypassing the recommendation given to Lynas.

“If the licence is not renewed, we will not be able to operate and we will be jobless,” Jumaat, 59, told reporters outside the Parliament building.

The group also sought to hand over a memorandum to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, Yeo, and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

The memorandum was received by a representative from the foreign ministry.

It stated the review findings and urged the government to save the 1,000 direct and 4,000 indirect jobs that would be impacted if the facility’s licence is not renewed.

It added that all facility operations were conducted by qualified and experienced locals who were happy working for Lynas Malaysia.

Khairul Suhaimi Mohd Jamin, who has worked with Lynas Malaysia for 10 years, said he and his family would be badly affected if the government revokes Lynas’ licence.

He said his wife, who was a teacher, had quit her job to stay with him in Kuantan.

“To me, working at Lynas is special,” he added. “There is no other place but China which produces our products.”

Mimi Afzan Afza, Lynas vice-president of people and culture, who was present at the public hearing for the committee early last month, told reporters she had hoped to bring about technological development in Malaysia through her work at the plant.

With tears in her eyes, she urged the public to read the full report which she said stated that the facility operations were low-risk and similar to other factory operations across the country.

“We are not one of a kind in Malaysia, there are other (factories) like us. Why are we targeted?

“We hope that the government will work with us and help us. That is all I ask,” she said.

She also dismissed claims that Lynas threatened the lives of children, saying she and the other workers had children as well.

“Would we do anything to threaten their lives? Of course not.”

Lynas was recently told by the energy, science, technology, environment and climate change ministry to remove its waste from the Kuantan plant or risk not having its operational permit renewed.

The ministry said LAMP would be allowed to continue operating as long as it removes and disposes of its water leach purification residue which contains radioactive material.

It also said Lynas must submit an action plan on the disposal of its non-radioactive neutralisation underflow residue scheduled waste.

Lynas, in a letter of undertaking to the Atomic Energy Licensing Board, had promised to transport all its radioactive waste outside of Malaysia in February 2012.

Its CEO Amanda Lacaze has dismissed allegations that the company is using Malaysia as a dumping ground for radioactive waste, saying the claims are “not rooted in science” and seek only to scare the public.