PETALING JAYA: A former Kedah assemblyman from Umno has called for a public inquiry into the theft of rare earth elements from a forest reserve.
Mahadzir Abdul Hamid, who was Jeneri assemblyman from 2013 to 2018, said that an investigation is needed to ensure that the theft is not linked to abuse of power by the higher ups, Astro Awani reported.
It was recently reported that illegal mining of rare earth elements had been detected at the Bukit Enggang forest reserve, several months after these materials were reported to be stolen.
Earlier this year, Kedah menteri besar Sanusi Md Nor said the state government signed an agreement with a local company backed by Chinese experts to tap into RM60 billion worth of rare earth elements.
Rare earth is used to make electronic equipment, batteries, super magnets and other sophisticated equipment.
Mahadzir claimed rare earth materials were stolen from several compartments of the forest reserve some years ago but the state government did not take any action against it.
“If such action is not stopped, this will create another bigger problem. I am sure that a thief will not enter (the area) without consent from the ‘house owner’. We suspected this was what had happened, despite us not having evidence.
“This is the reason we want an investigation (through a royal commission of inquiry or tribunal),” he added.
Several NGOs were reported to have supported Mahdzir’s call for an inquiry.
The groups alleged that Sanusi – who inked the rare earth exploration with two companies – had breached provisions of the National Forestry Act in hastily signing the agreement with the companies.
Mohd Sobri Ramlee, who is state chairman of Pertubuhan Alam Sekitar Sejahtera (Grass) said that Bukit Enggang served as the source of clean water for local residents there.
Another NGO member, Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman from Sahabat Alam Malaysia said that Sanusi’s MoU had “contradicted” with facts and law.
He said Sanusi, who is also in charge of Kedah’s natural resources portfolio, should have known the law and should have had a technical team to advise him.