Commentary Politics

The bitter pill that is Lynas’ all-clear by Dr Mahathir

Dr Mahathir wanted to allow Lynas to stay in Malaysia as the country will lose a huge investment it was to close down Lynas' rare-earth processing plant here.

Dr Mahathir wanted to allow Lynas to stay in Malaysia as the country will lose a huge investment it was to close down Lynas' rare-earth processing plant here.

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

June 2, 2019

A commentary by Zaidi Azmi

SHEESH! One would expect that the Lynas controversy would have ended following the green-light Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had given to the world’s only non-Chinese rare-earth refiner. Alas it was not to be.

Apparently, the three harshest critics of Lynas, all of whom are members of Dr Mahathir’s administration, continue to make noise and cast confusions to the point of sounding rather sour over the decision.

To the unfamiliar, Lynas’ latest battle for survival in Malaysia rekindled last year. It was subjected to a review – by a panel of experts and scientists – that it passed but still had its fate in a limbo due to clashing directives from the government over residue disposal issues.

The only clarity over the government’s position on the company was three days ago when Dr Mahathir explicitly said this: “we will allow Lynas to carry on because otherwise we are going to lose a very big investment from Australia.”

Despite sounding a tad receptive of Dr Mahathir’s remark, DAP’s Wong Tack reaction to the greenlight was quite peculiar, especially on the part where Wong insisted that Lynas can stay if the company “complies with our law.”

His comment was odd in the sense that he himself was present when the six regulatory bodies, that had been monitoring Lynas since day one, had given the company an all-clear at a town hall forum, in Kuantan, last year.

Perhaps the then-approval would have stuck in his mind if he wasn’t busy accusing the monitoring outfits of being a bunch of salesmen of Lynas and had even asked them how much  the company had paid them for the sales pitch.

Geez…can one get any bitter than that?

Unlike Wong, Minister Yeo Bee Yin and Deputy Minister Fuziah Salleh had both disputed news concerning Dr Mahathir’s remark in wanting to allow Lynas to continue its operations in Malaysia.

Yeo – who is in charge of energy, science, technology, environment and climate change – insisted that the media may not have focused on Dr Mahathir’s actual stand over the matter.

“Actually today I saw the (video) clip of Dr Mahathir’s interview, then I realised actually his position is, Lynas has to ship out its waste, his answer was very long, most of the time he was talking about waste, but unexpectedly the focus was blurred, so actually the government is still very concerned about the issue of waste,” said Yeo.

Indeed, the press conference where Dr Mahathir spoke about Lynas was an hour long interchange but the exact moment in which he responded to a Reuters reporter’s poser over Malaysia’s position on the company spanned for only about two minutes.

Below is the transcription of Dr Mahathir’s remark over an inquiry on Lynas at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

When we invited Lynas to invest in Malaysia we did not expect that he waste would be a problem to us.

The huge amount of waste is the result of the process and the waste has got some radioactivity. And Malaysia has had bad experience with radioactivity.

In the past a certain byproduct of tin mining was used in order to produce color television but to do that they had to activate the material and it becomes radioactive.

Now colour television does not use that material anymore. They use LED. So what do we do with the waste, the material that has been activated.

We had tough problems talking to business people, eventually we agreed that we should bury the waste. So 1 square kilometers of land was dedicated to burying it.

Since then we do not like radioactive material and since Lynas produce radioactive material we wanted them to ship out the radioactive material back to where the raw material comes from. But the country does not want to accept them.

We will talk to them but if we feel the need to do something with the raw material, maybe we need to spread it somewhere so as to not have concentrated radioactive material in one place.

But we will allow Lynas to carry on because otherwise we are going to lose a very big investment from Australia.

So, the media misreported it? Also since when has Yeo become Dr Mahathir’s spokesperson?

And the funniest thing was that the day after Yeo’s attempted clarification on Dr Mahathir’s statement, the deputy secretary-general of her ministry, Dr K. Nagulendran confirmed that Lynas will continue to stay put in Malaysia.

“The plant (Lynas’) will stay as Tun (Dr Mahathir) had said,” remarked Nagulendran.

So basically, Yeo clarified Dr Mahathir’s clarification and was in turn had her clarification clarified by her own officer. Wow, what a rollercoaster ride.

But where Yeo was rather tactful with her suggestions, Fuziah went as far saying that the press had blacked out the part where Mahathir had supposedly said that Lynas must ship out its residues or face closure.

Wait. What!? So, according to Fuziah, even the foreign press had ganged up and censored the alleged part of Dr Mahathir’s statement over Lynas.

What an amazing conspiracy theory.



About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]