Commentary

The over-politicisation of Lynas

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Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

December 14, 2018

A commentary by Zaidi Azmi

WHEN it first became a hot-button issue in 2012, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was among the first to defend controversial rare-earth producer, Lynas Coporation Ltd., arguing that the anti-Lynas animosity was due to the politicking of “some misguided people”.

Six years have gone by and the scenario pretty much remains the same.

But unlike as it was in the past, Lynas’ current hurdles were set by those within Dr Mahathir-led goverment which was not a shocker as those leading the anti-Lynas movement are politicians from the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

And the proverbial crusade these politicians are waging against Lynas is nothing short of dramatic even more so after an independent review committee consisting of experts in related fields has given a favourable verdict to the Australian company.

While Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh turned on the waterworks as she nit-picked on findings of the report in pushing the anti-Lynas narrative, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Yeo Bee Yin, pulled an even more amazing feat.

She essentially ignored the recommendations of the committee which she had set-up and came out with several directives which uncannily resembled the demands bellowed by Lynas’ detractors -that the company export its residue before September 2019.

What the committee actually recommended was for Lynas to first identify the location of its residues’ permanent depository facility (PDF) which the company is currently doing. The export of its residue shall only be done if Lynas fails to construct the PDF.

Yesterday, Yeo claimed that the residue need to be exported because she was concerned that the accumulated residue could endanger the locals if natural disasters such as flooding occurs despite the committee had, on page 57 of the report, stated that Lynas’ temporary residue storage facilities were “perfectly managed.”

“The ministry set up the review committee and the ministry nominated the members. Why then would the ministry make a decision that overrides the committee’s recommendations?” asked Lynas CEO, Amanda Lacaze.

Why? A simple search via Google revealed that Yeo’s contradictions were not at all shocking, as she had been pushing the anti-Lynas narrative since 2012.

While, it is unsure if she participated in the protest against Lynas but Yeo had, in that year, penned a tongue-in-cheek entry on her blog, where she described the recycling of Lynas’ sole low-level radioactive residue as a mere myth.

Against such a backdrop, it is anybody’s guess if Yeo had acted impartially in handling Lynas but she did tell The Edge, last month, that her views and personal stance on Lynas remains the same.

So was the formation of the committee a mere publicity stunt? What was even the point of appointing experts to probe Lynas if you are not going take heed of their recommendations?

In this case the line between Yeo’s personal stance and her ministerial position seemed to be nonexistent. No one knows if her personal take on Lynas had come in between her official role.

But since she had openly stated her personal position on Lynas, common sense dictates that she should have or be ordered to recuse herself from calling the shots on the company.

To quote Dr Mahathir himself, “It would be a great loss to Malaysia if misguided people prevent us from extracting and using the high clean electrical capacities of rare earth.”

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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]