Malaysia

Lynas panel’s tenure can be extended

By Shannon Teoh
March 20, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — The tenure of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Lynas Corp’s controversial rare earths plant in Kuantan can be extended beyond its current three-month span, the government said this morning.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz (picture) said this when tabling a motion in Parliament to form the nine-man panel on the RM2.3 billion project that has raised concerns about radiation pollution.

“The lifespan of the select committee is three months. If the select committee cannot finish its duties in this time, then Dewan Rakyat will decide on extending its appointment.

“The select committee must complete and table a report containing recommendations to the Dewan Rakyat to be agreed on,” the de facto law minister said.

Although the panel is to have three opposition members, the DAP has said it will abstain as it believes the PSC will be a “sham”.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had charged that the PSC was the Najib administration’s way of legitimising the plant that has received a conditional approval for a temporary operating licence (TOL).

Lim also urged other Pakatan Rakyat (PR) component parties to join the DAP in abstaining from joining the PSC.

The Cabinet agreed last week for form a bipartisan PSC to look into the Lynas controversy but Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak irked the project’s detractors when he said on Saturday the panel’s purpose was not to decide on the fate of the plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.

Instead, Najib had said the PSC was part of Putrajaya’s engagement process to ensure the public understood the issues at hand.

Nazri had said on Saturday that the bipartisan panel would comprise nine members — four BN lawmakers, three PR MPs, one independent and with Umno minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin as chairman.

Thousands of anti-Lynas protestors attended an opposition-backed rally by Himpunan Hijau last month in the largest protest yet against the rare earths plant that is expected to fire up later this year.

Critics of the refinery want Putrajaya to direct the nation’s nuclear regulator to reverse its decision to approve Lynas’ TOL, which will let the Australian miner embark on a two-year trial run.

They allege that Lynas has not given enough assurances on how it will handle the low-level radioactive waste that will be produced at the refinery.

The government has been under pressure from groups to shut down the rare earths project over safety fears, but Putrajaya has stood its ground on the project that was first earmarked for Terengganu.

Lynas maintains that waste from the Gebeng plant — which will be the largest rare earth refinery in the world upon completion — will not be hazardous and can be recycled for commercial applications.