Australian activist refused entry to Malaysia

September 5, 2014
Natalie Lowrey: 'The neoliberal model of development is destroying the environment.'

Australian resident Natalie Lowrey was refused entry into Malaysia on August 31. She was travelling as an observer to the trial of 15 environmental activists who were arrested for protesting against Australian rare earth mining company Lynas.

On arrival in Malaysia, Lowrey was held by customs officials who said she had been blacklisted by Bukit Aman — the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur — and that she would be deported home. Lowrey was informed of a strict denial of entry to Malaysia. No reasons were given.

Lowrey said: “I travelled to Malaysia not only to show my solidarity, I also love the country and its people and culture. I went there as an observer to the ongoing criminalisation and intimidation in Malaysia of communities and environmental defenders against foreign interests who are colluding with the police and the government of Malaysia.

“The police blacklisting me is an example of intimidation and preventing the universal right to defend human rights and environmental justice.”

The Lynas processing plant in Kuantan is the focus of Malaysia’s largest environmental movement. The company received a 12-year tax break from the Malaysian government but has been under community pressure for the past three years for having no social licence to operate.

Its two-year temporary operating licence was due to expire on September 2. An article in The Malaysian Insider on September 2 said: “The Atomic Energy Licensing Board director-general Hamrah Mohd Ali said the board met on August 21 and agreed to issue a two-year full operating stage licence to Australian rare earth miner and producer Lynas after it fulfilled all the conditions

This included having a permanent disposal facility, the location of which is yet to be publicly known.

Local people are concerned about the contamination of coastal environments and adverse health impacts that could arise from mismanagement of radioactive waste streams, as seen with the rare earth refinery operated by Mitsubishi Chemicals at Bukit Merah in the 80s and 90s.

Lowrey said: “The neoliberal model of 'development' is destroying the environment and pitting communities and eco-defenders against powerful corporations and colluding police and governments all around the world.”

She and 15 Malaysians were arrested at a peaceful protest in June demanding Lynas close down its operation of the Lynas Advanced Material Plant.

Lowrey was held for six days then released without charge. She was not told she would be unable to return to the country. The Malaysian arrestees are being tried under the Penal Code.

“Their charges against the 15 peaceful Malaysian citizens arrested with me on June 22 must be dropped, including the gag order that was part of their bail conditions. I was released with no charge, so why are they facing a trial, which, if convicted, may include jail time?”

Concerned citizens across Malaysia are appealing to the international community to apply pressure on the Malaysian government and Lynas about the lack of transparency of waste management at the plant and for its intimidation tactics against environmental activists, including members of the grassroots movement Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly).

“The Malaysian government must allow the full enjoyment of environmental and human rights, including the right to defend rights and ensure that corporations operating within its country respect the rights of nature, people, and rights of defenders,” Lowrey said.

[Download the recent Stop Lynas Inc paper criticising the Lynas lack of social licence in Malaysia at]

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