Six Malaysian activists from the Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly) group have begun a three-day occupation of the entrance to the corporate headquarters of Lynas in Sydney. The Australian company has built an unwanted toxic rare earths refinery in Kuantan , Malaysia.
They have come armed with a petition with signatures from 1.2 million Malaysians who demand that the toxic plant be shut down by June 29, 2014 at the latest.
The anti-Lynas occupation is at 56 Pitt Street, Sydney, until November 29 when it will shift to protest outside the Lynas shareholders' annual general meeting at The Establishment Hotel, 252 George St, Sydney. Another 10 Malaysian campaigners will be arriving for the AGM, some armed with share certificates or proxies to take their case directly to Lynas' shareholders.
Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle interviewed Himpunan Hijau chairperson Wong Tack at the Lynas HQ occupation. Watch the full interview at Green Left TV .
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What brings you to Lynas corporation's headquarters in Sydney?
Our purpose here is to tell Lynas and the people of Australia that Malaysians are very concerned about the issue of radioactive pollution caused by Lynas in our neighbourhood.
We want to let Australians and the shareholders of Lynas know that Kuantan is a beautiful community where fishermen have made a living for generations, and they want it to remain a place for their children to grow up safe. It is a place where many people come home to retire. It is a community that depends on tourism. It is a place of beautiful scenery.
Then Lynas came in and took up 250 acres of land in the coastal area for its toxic waste-producing rare earth refinery. It is next to the Balok river and close to an urban area with a population of some 700,000.
How strong is the community opposition to this toxic plant?
Over the last three years citizens from across our nation have come out to tell Lynas this is not acceptable.
Lynas came in through the back door. They built this plant without the people knowing. The plant was approved without proper procedures. And they built the plant without a proper environment impact assessment of the area.
The location of the plant is not suitable for this sort of industry.
Through the corrupt regime ruling Malaysia, Lynas obtained a temporary licence to operate. It is a temporary licence because Lynas is not fully compliant.
At this moment Lynas is operating without a proper waste management plan. The Atomic Energy Agency recommended that a permanent waste disposal facility must be in place before operations are allowed to go on.
Lynas has misled the people. First it made an undertaking in black and white that all the toxic waste would be shipped out of Malaysia. Now, after it has started operating it says that it has found ways to recycle its waste into building materials.
We have been fighting Lynas over the last two and a half years with public demonstrations of 20-30,000 people again and again.
Then we organised a 300-km Green Walk to raise awareness across the nation. It went from Kuantan, where the Lynas plant is, to the national capital Kuala Lumpur. We walked for 14 days through 15 townships. We started with a few people, sleeping by the side of the streets on the way, and then when we reached Kuala Lumpur more than 20,000 people joined us.
And your previous action, prior to this occupation outside Lynas HQ, was the "Bury Lynas with 1,000,000 signatures" petition campaign. How did that go?
The Malaysian prime minister said that if the people reject the Lynas plant then the plant should close. So in August we launched a campaign to collect a million signatures on a petition for the Lynas plant. We went to the streets and camped out at Dataran Merdeka [Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur] for 36 days and nights and we successfully obtained one million signatures.
At our latest count – just before we left for Australia – we have now collected 1.2 million signatures. The signatures are still coming in. You can see how strong the objections from Malaysians are and how committed we are to closing down Lynas.
So we are here with the voices of more than a million people to tell Lynas we will close your toxic plant down. We also are giving Lynas a deadline to close by June 29, 2014. That will be the date when millions of Malaysians will come to the streets to shut down this toxic plant. This is the message we want to give to Lynas and its shareholders.