The High Court of Malaysia lifted a two-month suspension on November 8 of a temporary operating licence granted to the Australian company Lynas Corporation to operate a controversial rare earths refinery near the city of Kuantan in Malaysia.
Angry residents and environmental activists now plan to bring their objection to Australia when Lynas holds its shareholders' annual general meeting at the luxury Sofitel Hotel in Sydney on November 20.
Eighteen activists will travel to Sydney to take part in the protest and speak to concerned Australians, politicians and the media.
Lynas' temporary operating licence was suspended on August 28 while the Malaysian High Court considered appeals by resident action groups. The groups are opposed to the plant on two grounds:
1. The temporary operating licence was wrongly granted by Malaysia's Atomic Energy Licensing Board without a detailed environmental impact assessment. A fresh radiological impact assessment and a radioactive waste management plan should have been submitted to AELB for approval before the licence was granted.
2. Malaysia's Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation decided not to revoke the licence after an appeal by Kuantan residents who, with legal support and experts, brought evidence of significant risks from the refinery.
Tan Bun Teet, a spokesperson for Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) and an applicant in the court action, will join the Sydney protest. SMSL is one of several Malaysian activist groups that campaign against the toxic refinery.
He told Green Left Weekly SMSL would to appeal the November 8 decision.
“We will appeal to try to get the licence suspended again – it has always been SMSL’s intention to exhaust all legal avenues in Malaysia and in Australia to stop Lynas in the interest of our future and the safety of our country. If our government fails us then we rakyat [the people] will have to do something.”
Another leading residents' rights activist, Haji Ismail Abu, said: “If Lynas thinks that we rakyat will simply give up just like this, then it has completely under estimated how strongly we are opposed to its rare earth refinery project.”
“We do not want future generations to bear the burden of having to deal with the pollution problems and the millions of tonnes of toxic radioactive waste left behind by Lynas tax free.”
Hundreds of local residents started to arrive at the Kuantan High Court early on November 8 and were matched by 200 pro-Lynas supporters in Lynas uniform.
A Kuantan resident Ram Punusamy said, “it made me sad to see these Lynas workers turning up totally unaware that they will be the one most at risk of Lynas’ inadequate radiation safety procedure and pollution control.”
Activist Jade Lee told GLW there was evidence that the pro-company protesters were poor students paid 250 Malaysian ringgits (A$78.57) each to come to the protest to pretend to be Lynas workers.
On November 13, a 14-day-long, 300 km, march (dubbed the "The Green Walk") from Kuantan to the national capital Kuala Lumpur began to protest against Lynas. See photos below.
Kelvin Chow, who was at the start of the "Green Walk", told Green Left Weekly: "I think we had close to 1000 people walking on the first day. Some left and some joined half way through. The atmosphere was carnival like. Spirit was very high."
Activists are also considering a mass blockade to stop ore being imported from Western Australia to be refined in Malaysia.
Stop Lynas activities in Sydney coming up include:
Reception for the Stop Lynas delegation from Malaysia
Held in collaboration with the Addison Road Community Centre
Sunday Nov 18, 2-5pm,
Main Hall, Addison Road Community Centre
142 Addison Road
Food, Music & speakers
PROTEST at LYNAS AGM
Tuesday Nov 20, 9am
61-101 Phillips St, Sydney
FB event: http://www.facebook.com/events/313548362086791
Public forum at NSW Parliament House
Tuesday Nov 20, 7-8:30pm
Jamie Parker Greens MP for Balmain
Mr Tan Bun Teet, chairperson SMSL
Lee Tan- Kuantan born, Australian activist
(6:45pm for a 7pm start)
Start of the Green Walk on November 13. This photo and those below by Kelvin Chow.
Photo above by Dun Semambu.
Photo above by Dun Semambu.