Lynas, an Australian mining company, is building a rare earth refinery close to the heavily populated area city of Kuantan in Malaysia. The ore is to be shipped from a mine in Western Australia but the highly toxic and radioactive waste which the refinery will produce will not be accepted back by the WA government.
On February 26, 15-20,000 people converged from around the country to demonstrate in Kuantan against the refinery which has just been given government approval. This was the biggest ever environmental protest in Malaysia. There were also protests in several other cities around Malaysia and some solidarity gatherings in Australia.
These photographs of the march and mass rally in Kuantan were taken by CHOO CHON KAI, a leading activist in the Socialist Party of Malaysia (Parti Socialis Malaysia - PSM) and made available for publication in Green Left Weekly.
A February 27 statement by the PSM, released by PSM Secretary General S.Arutchelvan, said: "The message is clear. The people have spoken up... The people do not want the Lynas Project in Malaysia which would only benefit Barisan Nasional [BN - the governing coalition] and its cronies.
"[The] PSM calls upon the BN government, listen to the people and stop Lynas now. If, BN is serious about the people's aspirations and still wants to go ahead with Lynas, call for a referendum and let the people decide whether or not Malaysia needs Lynas. PSM also strongly condemns all kinds of intimidation posed at the people who are opposing Lynas. In Penang, UMNO-BN used thugs to disrupt the rally. They continue to use old tactics to instill fear among people. BN cannot use this old tactic any more. The people have braved themselves.
"It's time for BN to use political will and stop Lynas! Or the people will use their will and stop Lynas and BN."
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