KUANTAN – August 18, 2019: The weather at the Taman Gelora beach-side park here this morning was a pleasant mix of sunny blue sky and breezy air.
However, frustration and disappointment were emanating from a small group of protesters there, who have been trying to shut down Lynas Corporation’s rare-earth processing plant in nearby Gebeng since 2011.
“Cursed politicians! They’re all the same,” muttered an elderly man who only wanted to be known was Wong as he stared intently at a banner showing the 35 politicians who once vowed to close Lynas’ plant when they come to power.
Lynas’ fate was in a limbo when Pakatan Harapan (PH) form government after winning the May 9 national poll last year.
It was only until three days ago that the government officially issued the greenlight for Lynas to stay, which was an unacceptable verdict to those of the anti-Lynas movement whom had gathered here today.
“We voted them because they promised to shut down Lynas at all cost. I was very disappointed and angry when PH extended Lynas’ operating licence,” lamented Huang Shi Tong.
Unlike the mammoth rallies in the past, today’s event only attracted less than 500 people and without the presence and endorsement of the politicians who had promised to fight for the movement’s cause.
The only prominent anti-Lynas voice who turned up, albeit late, was Bentong MP Wong Tack of the DAP, who was immediately heckled and jeered by a handful of the protesters, demanding him to resign.
“His (Wong) political career began because of the anti-Lynas movement. Wong is a part of the PH government and he has failed to keep his promise. It is only right for him to vacate his parliamentary seat,” said Sharan Raj.
Sharan, along with other protesters, cheered as the organiser of the protest, Save Malaysia; Stop Lynas staged a gimmick in which the cut-outs face of Pakatan’s top four leaders were tossed into the air from a cardboard prop bus.
The cut-outs were those of Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and Amanah president Mohamad Sabu.
Tan, who was sued by Lynas for defamation in 2012, however, did not burn Pakatan’s election manifesto as he had vowed six days ago .
Mahathir recently spoke against shutting down Lynas given the company’s more than RM1 billion worth of investment in Malaysia and the strategic position the country is currently given following China’s recent threat to curb the export of rare-earth minerals.
Lynas’ operations have been declared safe in reports by international and local experts, with the latest being the review committee formed by the government last year.
Led by a panel of scientists and experts in related fields, the committee along with the regulatory bodies which have been monitoring Lynas’ plant, had given the company an all-clear on all aspect of the company’s operations.
In the committee’s report, it was noted that both of Lynas’ controversial residue, the water-leached-purification and neutralised-underflow have been safely managed and stored in its temporary storage facility.
Bernama reported that police will be calling up the organisers for breaching provisions of the Peaceful Assembly Act.
Kuantan OCPD ACP Mohamad Noor Yusof Ali said he was informed by Kuantan Municipal Council president Datuk Hamdan Hussin that the rally had not received the council’s consent to use Taman Gelora.
He said the matter was confirmed by Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK) president Datuk Hamdan Hussin.
Mohamad Noor said the need for approval from the venue’s owner was explained at an hour-long meeting with five rally representatives including its chairman Tan Bun Teet on August 7.
Additional reporting by Shaira Idris