Save Malaysia Stop Lynas Media Brief on the Visit to Western Australia
Place: KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
Date: Thursday 15th September 2011
Why Western Australia?
What have SMSL achieved in Western Australia?
The most significant achievement of the Western Australia visit is getting the commitment by the Mayor of Fremantle Mr Brad Pettite to work with other Fremantle Councillors, state and federal politicians to call for the Lynas rare earth refinery to be relocated back to Australia.
The rare earth concentrate will be transported from Mt Weld and shipped through the port of Fremantle. There are growing concerns in Fremantle of the risks and hazards of this material being transported as non-hazardous material. Lynas managed to convince the state and federal governments of Australia that its thorium concentration is low enough on average to meet the legal threshold of its definition of hazardous or radioactive materials.
The state Member of Parliament for Fremantle Ms Adele Carles raised alarm on the risk of transporting the rare earth concentrate as non-hazardous materials in the state’s highway traversing through populated suburbs of Perth and the city of Fremantle. Previously, a similar mode of transportation of lead by a company by the name of Magellan has caused serious hazards for the community living near the Port of Esperance forcing the operation to cease. The lead is now transported through Fremantle in sealed containers.
The people of Fremantle are already jittery with the lead being transported through their port. They are now faced with the transportation of rare earth concentrate through their suburbs.
Ms Carles, the State Member for Fremantle is committed to call for an inquiry into the risk and hazards of the transportation of the concentrate to delay the export of the raw materials to Malaysia.
SMSL has sought assistance from the Australian National Toxic Network to get their expertise and technical knowledge to provide an in-depth analysis of the range of risks and hazards of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng. This will provide a clearer picture of the wide range of hazards and their associated problems to be considered over and beyond the narrow and limited focus of the IAEA peer review carried out on the LAMP in June.
Other MPs and the Senator have committed to raising the issues in Parliament and to look at the policy implication of Lynas’ operation. Senator Scott Ludlam is especially keen to examine the implication of carbon “leakage” by Lynas’ shifting its most polluting part of the rare earth operation to a developing country like Malaysia which is exempted from reducing its carbon footprint at this point in time. The Green Party which now holds the balance of power in the House of Senate would be seeking legislative measure to put in place greater control of Australian corporations operating overseas to ensure they comply with Australian laws wherever they operate.
Despite having to compete with hundreds of other media stories, the visit of SMSL has attracted several leading articles in the front page of the financial section of the major newspapers including the West Australian. Several media interviews were carried out and were broadcasted in local radio stations. The campaign of SMSL in Fremantle has especially got front page coverage in the Fremantle Gazette which is widely read by the people of the city.
People will lie on the road to stop the rare earth concentrate from being transported
SMSL ended the WA campaign with a theatrical protest action outside Lynas’ Perth office. The low profile of the Lynas Perth office, hidden away in a quiet residential estate in East Perth epitomises once again the secrecy in which Lynas seemed to enjoy. SMSL’s action exposed the true identity of Lynas and many people in the neighbourhood stood out to watch and asked about the reason for the protest action. They showed their support upon hearing the truth.
SMSL was supported by concerned people in Perth including Fremantle Councillor Mr Sam Wainwright who acted as the driver of the Lynas evil van. Veteran peace campaigner and a former Senator Ms Jo Valentine was also at the action to lend her support. The protest action showed Lynas clear and loud that the people of Kuantan and towns near Gebeng will lie on the road to stop Lynas from transporting its raw material to the LAMP.
SMSL won praise in Western Australia
Ms Valentine in one of the public forums earlier in the week congratulated SMSL for staging such a strong and effective campaign to date.
“What you have done is what would take us at least 3 years to achieve. Keep up the good work. We are disgusted by our company doing this to you and we will do what we can here to make sure your voices are heard.”, said Ms Valentine.
In summary, SMSL met with 7 politicians, 3 trade union organisations and/or their union representative including their peak body Unions WA. SMSL also met and discussed the issue with Doctors for Environment, the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA and the peak body of the environmental groups in the state, the Conservation Council of Western Australia as well as the principal solicitor of the Environmental Defenders Office. In many of the public events, Malaysians living or studying in Perth attended and showed their support for SMSL. All of the individuals and organisations met have undertaken to take the issues up within their capacity and in accordance with their respective roles and responsibility to delay and/or stop the project.
The campaign tour has resulted in many positive outcomes. Almost all of the people met have little knowledge of the Lynas’ plant in Malaysia and many were appalled by the modus operandi of this mining corporation and have vowed to do something in support of the Stop Lynas campaign.
SMSL returned to Malaysia in good spirit albeit the hectic and exhausting week-long campaign sleeping in bunk beds in a basic backpacker hostel at one stage and eating instant noodles on a rush in some occasions.
SMSL and MCA
SMSL’s experience in WA is in stark contrast to the action taken by MCA despite its earlier promise to raise concerns with the Government through the National Economic Council. SMSL is appalled by MCA’s latest move to engage with Hua Tuan in its attempt to weaken their support for SMSL. This is a clear indication of the lack of trust and the dishonesty on the part of MCA. SMSL has earlier risked its supporters’ criticism by engaging with MCA giving this supposedly Chinese representing body the benefit of the doubt to do something about the Lynas issue.
So far, SMSL has not received any response from MCA despite repeated requests for an update on its promise. MCA’s lack of action on the Lynas issues beyond paying lip services and concocting impotent proposals is a slap in the face of all the people who have sacrificed much to rally against the toxic project of Lynas. MCA is clearly out of touch with the Chinese community including owners of many of the small to medium-size businesses who will be affected by the Lynas plant. It is despicable that a foreign corporation’s vested interests have been prioritised over local concerns and future of Kuantan and our precious environment.
Future Direction and Actions
SMSL is hopeful and will embark on the next phase of the campaign to continue to expand its movement and to engage experts to provide more substances to its campaign. One of the immediate actions is to engage award winning short film director Ms Tan Chui Mui to make several short films to help publicise the campaign through social media and other media avenues.
SMSL will also lend support to other community actions to Stop Lynas such as the upcoming events over the weekend organised by BADAR. Further SMSL will be actively involved in the launching of the Earth Charter in October 9th.
The campaign to Stop Lynas has now spread abroad to Australia. SMSL will focus on strengthening the campaign in Malaysia while linking regularly with the Australian side of the campaign.
SMSL call on the people all over Malaysia to join the campaign to Stop Lynas. If Lynas is allowed to go ahead despite the strong public opposition displayed so far, Malaysia will be at risk of other even more dangerous and hazardous projects such as nuclear reactors and heavily polluting industry from more advanced nations trying to escape stronger laws and more stringent regulation.