Don’t be seen as biased, Putrajaya told on proposed changes to atomic energy law

Lynas Malaysia says it is unaware of proposed changes to the Atomic Energy Licensing Act, which could affect its operations. (AFP pic)

PETALING JAYA: An economist has cautioned Putrajaya against being seen as selective in terms of policy-making and law enforcement following reports that rare earths miner Lynas Malaysia is in the dark over proposed amendments to a law governing its operations.

Firdaos Rosli from the Institute of Strategic and International Studies said the government must not be seen to be influenced by pressure groups.

Instead, he said, it should be inclusive in its engagement with stakeholders. He warned that failure to do so could affect investor confidence in the country.

Last week, Lynas Malaysia said it was unaware of the proposed amendments to the Atomic Energy Licensing Act 1984 (AELA), which a deputy minister said would soon be completely drafted.

Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis, the deputy energy, green technology, science and climate change minister, said the amendments would include a clearer scope of authority on matters of safety, security safeguards, the strengthening of laws, and the management of radioactive materials outside the current scope including solid, liquid and gas materials.

This was after Nor Azrina Surip (PH-Merbok) asked in the Dewan Rakyat how the proposed amendments would help in the management of naturally occurring radioactive materials or NORM residue like that produced by Lynas.

Firdaos said Putrajaya was right to propose amendments to clarify the AELA and give it more bite. However, he said the real issue lies not in the law, but its implementation.

“According to various reports, Lynas has been complying with most local laws and international standards, so I doubt they would have trouble adapting to any amendments the government has in mind.”

Enforcement, though, is a different matter, he said, giving the example of the chemical pollution in Pasir Gudang, Johor, which has seen over 2,000 people treated for the inhalation of toxic fumes.

“I am all for aspiring to achieve higher standards. But we have to bear in mind that it can be costly against the backdrop of the present size of the public service, its impact on public finance and the limited fiscal space,” he said.

He added that enforcement should be fair, consistent and reasonable. Failure in this would impact investor confidence, which has already been affected by the switch from the goods and services tax to the sales and services tax, he said.