They vow to fight on for Malaysia’s interests despite the mining giant’s 'aggression' and 'gangster tactics'
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SMSL replying to the letter of demand issued by Lynas Corporation
KUALA LUMPUR: The group of anti-Lynas NGOs who were served a letter of demand by Lynas Corporation Ltd last week today declared their refusal to be intimidated and vowed to continue their fight to stop the company from building a rare earth plant in Gebeng.
The Australian mining giant sent a 15-page letter of demand to the 45 NGOs on March 31 for endorsing an open letter by Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, asking him to stop any shipment of rare earth ore concentrate to Malaysia.
Lynas’ lawyers have demanded a public apology in the print and online media as well a guarantee that SMSL would cease publishing statements concerning Lynas or face a lawsuit for injury caused to the company’s reputation.
But at a press conference this morning, 14 of the NGOs reiterated their determination to continue fighting for Malaysia’s interests and basic human rights against the “aggression” and “gangster tactics” of Lynas.
SMSL chairman Tan Bun Teet said the letter of demand was a historic first as no other NGO in Malaysia had ever received a legal threat to its activism.
He questioned the timing of Lynas’s letter, saying SMSL had long been fighting against the RM2.5 billion plant in Gebeng.
“It must have a hidden agenda and we’ll wait to see what it is,” Tan said. “Our lawyers have already replied to Lynas’ letter stating, among others, that our statements are in the interest of the public.”
The NGOs were given seven days from their receipt of the letter to meet Lynas’s demands. Noting that the deadline had expired, Tan said it remained to be seen whether Lynas would follow through with a lawsuit. ‘Public relations spin’
Tan Jo Hann, executive director of Pusat Komuniti Masyarakat (Komas), accused Lynas of taking advantage of weaknesses in Malaysia’s legal system.
He noted that under Australia’s Uniform Defamation Law, corporations with 10 or more employees cannot sue for defamation.
“In issuing this letter of demand to a broad base of civil society groups in Malaysia, Lynas is taking advantage of Malaysian laws on defamation, which falls short of international standards,” Jo Hann said.
“If Lynas is genuine in its claim that it is following international standards, it would have respected the basic democratic rights of Malaysians to free speech, especially when public interest is at stake.”
Bun Teet also dismissed as a “public relations spin” the company’s statement that it was ready to fire up the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in two weeks.
Lynas Malaysia’s managing director, Mashal Ahmad, said last week that LAMP was ready for operations but was being held back by its temporary operation licence (TOL) application.
Bun Teet reminded the media that Lynas had originally scheduled the opening of LAMP for last September, but had postponed it three times.
“Lynas has repeatedly made such announcements just to appease its investors,” he said. “It could have always obtained bridging finance from the banks without having to sell its bond if it really wanted to open the LAMP earlier.”