Friday, February 24, 2012

A Problem For ALL Malaysians!

When the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) begins operations in the Gebeng industrial estate near Kuantan, it will be the world’s largest rare earth refinery. Despite widespread local and international objections, a temporary operating licence was issued to Lynas Malaysia early this month. Are the authorities concerned at all about our well-being or do dollars and cents matter more in this controversial issue?

This weekend, Himpunan Hijau 2.0 together with several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as well as Non-Governmental Individuals (NGIs) will organise "In Solidarity with Himpunan Hijau 2.0" events across the nation on 26th February in:

a) Kuala Lumpur @ Maju Junction 9.30am to 12 noon

b) Penang @ Speakers' Square from 6pm onwards

c) Bukit Merah (in front of old Asian Rare Earth from 11 am onwards

d) Tanjung Aru Beach 4pm onwards

Contrary to what some might think, the Lynas controversy is NOT just a Kuantan or Pahang issue. It affects EVERY SINGLE MALAYSIAN and even every single inhabitant of this planet!

Bear in mind that once it starts operating, the pollution from the plant will spread over a wide area, even into our ASEAN neighbours through the South China Sea. This is a serious health and safety issue for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US because contaminated seafood, agricultural produce will put our health and safety at risk. The North-east monsoon will carry the contaminants from the Lynas plant far and wide across the region.

Believe me, this is one issue that merits our attention and serious consideration. How many of us are aware that it is not just the location of the plant that is a controversy but also the waste from the plant which CANNOT BE TREATED and can only be stored?

If it is stored within the boundaries of our countries, Malaysians will have to bear the consequences for many generations - long after Lynas has packed its bags and left Malaysia!

How can they brush off our objections by saying that low radiation from the waste will not harm us?

In reality, the refinery processes require copious amounts of chemicals and reagents, such as concentrated sulphuric acid, magnesium oxide, hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid as well as immense volumes of water and natural gas to extract the rare earth oxides.

On top of that, solid, gaseous and liquid waste will be produced from the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD), water leach purification (WLP) and neutralisation underflow (NUF) processes.

If it works at full capacity of 22,000 tonnes of rare earth oxide, the LAMP will produce waste as follows:

  • 64,000 tonnes containing 106 tonnes of radioactive thorium and 5.6 tonnes of radioactive uranium every year
  • 215,000 tonnes of residue likely to be contaminated with heavy metals and other hazardous substances every year
  • 100,000 cubic meters of air discharge likely to be contaminated with hazardous substances and radioactive particles
  • 500 cubic meters (or tonnes) of contaminated waste water every hour

Does the existing facility have the capacity to store the solid waste for the whole duration of its operations with the guarantee that it will not jeopardize the safety of surrounding areas and beyond?

Or will residents have to face risky waste water discharge strategy whereby water contaminated from its plant floor storm water run-off and its filtered waste water will be discharged into the Balok River?

The Balok River is an important mangrove habitat with four species listed in the global protection list of the IUCN. The mangrove mud flats along the Balok River are crucial breeding and spawning ground for a diversity of marine and aquatic flora and fauna including crustaceans and molluscs which are benthos or bottom-feeders.

Local fishermen have been collecting and trapping a wide range of seafood such as crabs, prawns,lobsters, river fish, cockles and oyster to sell and for their own consumption since time immemorial. Lynas’ water discharge plan can ruin their seafood industry and upset the naturally low ph peat riverine ecosystem of the Balok River.

Other industries at risk include fisheries, tourism and lucrative oil palm and bird nests industries which have been sustaining the local economy.

Malaysians must remember that the plant was constructed without any public consultation and least of all the informed consent of the local people. In its 2011 June review of the LAMP, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made a recommendation to improve public consultation.

Did Lynas act upon that recommendation positively?

Most worryingly, do the different contractors and sub-contractors for the project have the experience in rare earth processing? Would they able to ensure effective management of their work? What are the implications to be considered? Have sub-standard materials been used and corners being cut in the construction of the plant?

One of the eleven IAEA recommendations for the Lynas project is the provision of a permanent waste disposal facility. Has Lynas provided any safe solution to manage its waste?

Malaysians must face the hard and painful truth that there is no safe permanent waste disposal facility in our country! So what does that mean? How will it affect us?

Ask yourself a simple question: Why did an Australian company decide to locate its plant in Malaysia? It has to go through a lot of inconveniences. Why?


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Window to Our Past

Admittedly, history is not a topic that would interest many today. Yet, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, what drew many Penangites to Kompleks Penyayang on 8th January? Simple. They knew that a window to our past would be opened for all to have a glimpse at what shaped the course of our history, political direction and the role of the left.

Undeniably, due to lack of exposure, education and exposition by parties who wished to bury the past for obvious reasons, the history of the leftists in Malaysia has been largely under-explained, misunderstood and even distorted.

Fortunately for Malaysians, Strategic Information and Research Development Center, better known as SIRD, an independent scholarly publishing house in Malaysia, has been publishing books that embody social awareness, critical and alternative perspectives, and the hidden histories of Malaysia, Southeast Asia and the wider world we live in.

To that end, SIRD organized a book launch of "MEMOIR PERJUANGAN POLITIK SYED HUSIN ALI and AN UNCOMMON HERO: M.K. RAJAKUMAR IN POLITICS and MEDICINE on Sunday followed by a talk on “Left Politics in Malaysia: An Appraisal” featuring Tan Pek Leng, Syed Husin Ali and Choo Chon Kai. The Special Guest for the event was Dr. Poh Soo Kai.

Tan Pek Leng : The Left in Malaysian History and the Role of the Labour Party

In the early pre-independence years, there was a conflict between nationalism and the left movement. Till today, many are wonder whether KMM (Kesatuan Melayu Muda) was a leftist movement or a nationalist movement.

But who were the leftists in Malaya? Leftists refer to those groups who support for social change to create a more egalitarian society. Examples include KMM, Putra AMJCA, PRM, PSM, Labour Party and the North Kalimantan Communist Party and the most controversial Communist Party of Malaya.

Speaker Tan Pek Leng highlighted the need for more non-partisan analysis of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) in our country's endeavour to develop nationalism, independence and justice, especially via the labour movement in the 1930's and 1940's.

In the post-WW2 period, there was actually a Malayan Spring where various parties tried to establish a new democracy in Malaya. Then, the CPM had considerable support from workers, peasants and students.

Notably, the first attempt at establishing a multi-racial coalition in Malaya was carried out by Putra AMJCA via the Council for Joint Action (CJA) comprising the MDU, PKMM, MIC and other parties which are elaborated HERE. Speaker Tan Pek Leng raised a very interesting question as to why the coalition disbanded after the Emergency.

During the next part of her talk, Tan Pek Leng traced the history and development of the Labour Party of Malaya  and how it formed the Socialist Front with Parti Rakyat Malaya.

Interestingly,the LPM captured the City Council of Georgetown in Penang in the 1956 local elections with a majority of eight seats. With success, came more repression. Eventually, with the enactment and enforcement of ISA, the Labour Party was destroyed as key leaders and their cadres were arrested. Grassroot members who had to take over did not have the kind of esprit de corps of the leaders. Following infiltration by certain quarters, the party slowly lost its influence and eventually boycotted the 1969 elections as there was no one who could manage the campaign.

Speaker Tan Pek Leng questioned whether this move was strategically and tactically correct.

She ended her talk by emphasizing that their role in history is largely as a model for a multi-racial coalition. Clearly, there was a need for greater persistence in the cause.

Decades down the road, are we still fighting the same battles?

written by M

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Environmental Justice for the 13th GE

Monday, November 28, 2011

Penangites Move Into Action

This evening, a crowd of about 100 gathered at the Speakers Square, Esplanade for the Launching of Local Democracy Month 2011 and official opening ceremony by YB Chow Kon Yeow.

YB Chow Kon Yeow giving his opening speech

The Local Democracy month was organized with the objective of encouraging people to be constructively active in the discussion, planning and implementation of policies and services in Penang and local communities.

With the launching of this initiative, it is hoped that it will make Penangites more aware of the mechanism of local government as well as increasing awareness of the roles and functions of the various arms and agencies of the state and Municipal government.

The organizers also hope that this will be an open channel for as many citizens, especially those marginalized groups, to be involved and to share their ideas and experiences about how to effect positive change for our shared future.

Many events have been planned for the period including an anti-racism workshop, citizen education workshop, street busking,a photography competition and a Youth Parliament.

The event organised by Penang State Government, Suaram (Penang branch), Sembang-Sembang Forum, Campus Ministry Office, Amnesty International Malaysia, KOMAS, People's Green Coalition and SERI-Penang Institute ended by 6.30p.m. and was followed by a "Penangites peaceful assembly against the Peaceful Assembly bill" organized by SUARAM.

When the "Penangites peaceful assembly against the Peaceful Assembly bill" began, the response from the crowd was a clear indication of how much Penangites opposed this Bill even though there has been an announcement about some amendments which would be tabled prior to the debate on the Bill which will start Tuesday. Two speakers spoke during the peaceful protest - Datuk Dr. Toh Kin Woon and YB Jason Ong, PKR's Kebun Bunga assemblyman.

Datuk Dr. Toh Kin Woon speaking during the protest

YB Jason Ong speaking at the peaceful protest

Both speakers spoke passionately about why the Bill should not be passed and the importance of our right to assemble. YB Jason Ong expressed concern that the new Bill would in reality, infringe on our constitutional rights to freedom of assembly

The crowd roaring for the proposed Bill to be dropped.

The other provisions in the bill which are objectionable include:



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