Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Update on the Ministerial hearing and Lynas’ Gag Action

Press statement of Save Malaysia Stop Lynas Sdr Bhd (SMSL)
Update on the Ministerial hearing and Lynas’ Gag Action
29th May, 2012

SMSL seeks the right of reply to the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) response to an earlier letter from Minister Dr. Maximus Ongkili. The Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation heard an appeal against the licence approval granted by the AELB for Lynas for its rare earth refinery plant by three Kuantan residents in the
presence of their lawyers and experts on 17th of April last month.

Mr Tan Bun Teet, a Kuantan resident and the spokesperson for SMSL said, “In his letter to the AELB which SMSL has been copied to, the Honourable Minister described certain issues raised to be ‘obviously relevant, pertinent and important’. This is the first time ever a senior Minister has acknowledged our concerns.”

The Minister has given the AELB until the end of May to respond. After that the Minister will decide on the appeal and until then Lynas will not be issued the licences required to fire up the plant. The AELB has so far failed in its duty of care to adhere to its commitments to the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which reviewed the Lynas construction phase last June.

The AELB went ahead to approve Lynas’ application for a temporary operating licence, an import licence and a licence to dump its waste even though no permanent radioactive waste disposal facility is insight as yet. Further, the plant has several outstanding issues which the Government should seriously looked into. Rare earth processing is one of the most hazardous and polluting industry and yet the AELB has fast tracked the project without giving due considerations for the workers, the natural environment and the long-term impact on the greater Kuantan – both ecologically, economically and socially. This approval process is irresponsible and risky.

SMSL should be given the right to respond to the AELB’s reply to the Minister. SMSL have conveyed this message to the Honourable Minister through its solicitors earlier.

“On behalf of concerned residents of greater Kuantan, we urge the Honourable Minister not to make any decision until we are given the democratic space and the right to comment on the AELB’s reply. This is a fair and just ask by a citizens group.” Mr Tan remarked.

Should the Honourable Minister failed in its duty of care like the AELB, SMSL will be left with little choice but to take the next course of action to stop the risky Lynas rare earth project from operating.

Mr Tan continued, “we have promised the people of Balok, Gebeng and the surrounding coastal areas, the people of Kuantan as well as all concerned citizens of Malaysia who have lent their generous support for SMSL that we shall do whatever it takes to stop this project!”

Meanwhile, Lynas had once again filed defamatory proceeding in the KL High Court to gag SMSL. The matter will be heard in court next month on the 19th June. SMSL team and the lawyers have been working day and night to prepare a strong case. With the support of some of the best expert witnesses, we shall meet Lynas head-on to counter every one of their charges in court that day!

Supporters have donated to the chartering of buses to ferry our supporters to the KL high court to attend the hearing. We call on all concerned citizens of greater Kuantan to give moral support by joining us on this important journey for justice.

Bus depart : 5.00 am, June 19th.

Contact : Ms. Soon immediately. HP: 012 989 0687 to book your space.

At the same time, we are pursuing legal action in Australia. We hope to stall and delay Lynas’ plan to import its rare earth concentrate from its Mt weld mine in Western Australia (WA). Our friend and ally the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA (ANAWA) is currently waiting for the appropriate barrister’s advice to proceed with a court action. A major corporate law firm has also come on board to provide low-cost legal service to SMSL to pursue Lynas from Australia. SMSL will provide update as progress is made on those fronts.

“We have said that we will not leave any stone unturned. Our Stop Lynas campaign will continue to intensify in the period leading up to the 13th Malaysian General Elections. If the government continues to ignore the voices of the people, we will take to the street, we will go to court and we will take up every peaceful action possible to vote against any party that wants to see Lynas remain on Malaysian shore.” Concluded Mr tan.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Ministerial appeal raises more issues

The Minister of Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) has asked the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to withhold the issuing of the Temporary Operating Licence to Lynas until the issues raised have been dealt with. A deadline of 31st May 2012 was set for the AELB.


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) Inquiry, a Defamation Trap

Press statement of Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL)
Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) Inquiry, a Defamation Trap
May 10, 2012

SMSL walked out of today’s PSC inquiry on the refusal of the Committee to provide a written guarantee that the necessary Parliamentary privilege be granted so that the evidence given will NOT be used against SMSL for libel suit.
Mr Tan Bun Teet, a Kuantan resident and the spokesperson for SMSL said,
“As a citizen’s and civil society group, we have every right under the Malaysian constitution to protect our family, our livelihoods, our environment and our country. Yet the PSC would not even uphold the constitution to protect citizens and Malaysia’s own interest.”
“In the first place SMSL wouldn’t have bothered to take part in the PSC had not because it is necessary to clear the way for SMSL to apply to the court to withhold the three licences approved by the Government for Lynas to begin its operations.” Explained Mr Tan.
Yesterday, Lynas has filed a second application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court to seek an injunction against Mr Tan and another SMSL volunteer for alleged defamation.
SMSL is a people’s organisation consisting of a team of highly committed community volunteers backed up by strong public support from all over Malaysia and concerned citizens internationally.
SMSL has sought expert advice on the Lynas project.  It has had investigative research carried out on Lynas Corporation and its rare earth project by highly qualified independent professionals both in Malaysia, Australia and elsewhere.  SMSL’s views are based on expert advice.
“The Government’s PSC is a charade and a farce if citizens’ right to speak out in the national interest is undermined, first by Lynas and now by our own Parliament.”
Mr Tan emphasised, “All we have done is speaking out in the interests of our country and telling the truth about the Lynas rare earth project in the interest of the public and our country.”
“Our views and position are backed up by accurate and reliable data and research findings.  For the Chairman of the PSC to make a public statement claiming that the LAMP is a state-of-the art facility before the PSC inquiry is completed just goes to show how ill equipped and lacking our law makers are in tackling a complex issue like Lynas.”
“SMSL will exercise our constitutional right to seek legal recourse.  The people of Malaysia have given SMSL their mandate to challenge the approval of licenses at the high court.”
“We have support from high caliber expert witnesses ready to testify in court.  Our supporters have donated generously for us to fight on and we shall.” Concluded Mr Tan.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Citizen backlash keeps Malaysia rare earth plant on hold

Citizen backlash keeps Malaysia rare earth plant on hold

GEBENG, Malaysia | Wed May 9, 2012 2:53am EDT
Activists hold placards as they demonstrate against Lynas Corp in front of the main entrance of the Lynas factory in Gebeng, 270 km (168 miles) east of Kuala Lumpur, in this April 19, 2012 file photograph.
Credit: Reuters/Samsul Said/Files
(Reuters) - The expensive machinery lies silent, idling as Malaysia's government weighs a delicate decision to allow shipments of raw material to arrive fromAustralia and finally start operations at the world's largest rare earths plant outside China.

At the industrial estate on the country's east coast, 20 or so protesters gathered in the searing afternoon heat have begun a chant. "No to Lynas. Lynas go home!".

The handful of demonstrators seems an unlikely obstacle to plans by Australia's Lynas Corp to build its company-making 2.5 billion ringgit ($800 million) plant, seen as crucial to challenging China's near monopoly on the production of rare earths, used in items ranging from smartphones to smart bombs.

But the expanding protest movement they represent, feeding off broader frustrations with Malaysia's government as elections loom, has already delayed the project by eight months and cast a shadow over its future.

The resistance - fed by social networks and Malaysia's increasingly lively independent online media - also raises broader questions over the global expansion of an industry that has created huge environmental problems in China, which currently accounts for about 95 percent of global supply.

"Western countries don't want it. Why should we in Malaysia?," said Norizan Mokhtar, who lives less than 10 km (6 miles) from the plant in the industrial area of Gebeng, close to fishing villages and Kuantan, a city of half a million people.

"My youngest is six, the effects might not be seen now but in the future. We eat fish every day, what if there is radiation?"

She's afraid controls on the plant will become slack after the first few years.

Lynas has been plagued by delays and controversy in Malaysia since it broke ground on the plant two years ago with the aim of easing China's grip on the supply of rare earths and capitalizing on rising prices for the material.

Its share price has halved since early last year as investors worry that it will lose out in the race to feed surging world demand.

Lynas has orders covering its first 10 years of production. Japan, the world's biggest consumer of rare earths, is counting on Lynas to supply 8,500 tonnes a year by early 2013.

"Our customers are waiting," Mashal Ahmad, the managing director of the Lynas plant, told reporters during a tour of the plant for media last month.

"We have nothing to hide," he said, adding that "too much misinformation" had been spread about the company.


Prized for their magnetism, luminescence and strength, world consumption of rare earths is estimated to rise to around 185,000 metric tonnes (203,928 tons) a year by 2015, from 136,000 tonnes in 2010.

China imposed export quotas in 2009 to fight pollution caused by illegal mining and processing, turning up the pressure to find alternative sources.

The Lynas plant is one of a handful under construction. It is 98 percent complete and would supply about 11,000 tonnes in its first year, eventually rising to 22,000 tonnes.

Elsewhere, Canada's Great Western Minerals is teaming up with a Chinese group to build a rare earth processing plant in South Africa, while U.S. firm Molycorp is set to churn out just under 20,000 metric tons of rare earth oxide this year at its site near California's Death Valley.

The Malaysian protest movement gathered strength last year after allegations - denied by Lynas - that it was cutting corners on safety, fanning fears that radioactive run-off from waste material stored at the plant could seep into the local water system after being chemically treated.

An estimated 8,000 people rallied against Lynas in Kuantan in February and the issue has been seized on by the country's opposition to show the government is out of touch with citizens' concerns.

Malaysia's government at first showed few signs of heeding the protesters' concerns, but it appears to have been caught off-guard this year by the strength of opposition to the plant as it prepares for a closely run election within months.

Pahang, the state where the plant is being built, is a key stronghold for the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition that it can ill-afford to lose. Responding to lobbying by citizens' groups, the government set up a parliamentary select committee in March to look into the safety of the plant, after halting a conditional temporary operating license granted in February.

A decision is expected after the committee presents its findings at the end of June.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has vowed the government will not allow Lynas to operate the plant if there is any doubt over its safety. But he must also weigh the costs of sending a negative signal to foreign investors as he tries to reinvigorate the economy of the Southeast Asian country.

"We will never compromise the safety of the people and the environment," he said in a radio broadcast last month.

Lynas officials say they are confident the plant will win approval in coming months. Opponents suspect the government is waiting until after the election to approve the plant at a less sensitive time.

"The timing could be all too convenient," said Fuziah Salleh, a local opposition member of parliament who has thrown her weight behind the protest movement. "Basically it is a delay tactic until approval."

Fuziah and leaders of the protest movement "Stop Lynas, Save Malaysia" say they will continue to fight against Lynas in the court if it wins approval, signaling more uncertainty ahead.

The opposition - which made historic gains in 2008 polls and has an outside chance of winning the next election - has said it will scrap the Lynas project altogether if it takes government.


Opponents say the Lynas plant doesn't meet with best practice standards for the industry as it is too close to heavily populated areas and in a place where the ground water level is high. Molycorp's plant in California, by comparison, is situated far from residential areas in an arid climate.

"There never was any public consultation before the building of the plant got underway. I faced resistance from the start," said Fuziah.

If the protesters' views are trenchant, then Lynas' resolve is also hardening. The company has started legal action against a Malaysian news portal and a protest group for defamation.

Rare earths have a tainted history in Malaysia. In 1992, a unit of Mitsubishi Corp closed a rare earths plant in Bukit Merah in Perak state amid acrimony over radioactive contamination. Residents of Bukit Merah say they have suffered a high numbers of birth defects and leukemia.

Lynas says comparisons with Bukit Merah are unfair because the raw material there was over 40 times more radioactive than the concentrate to be used at its plant.

It says commercial - not environmental - reasons brought it to Malaysia, where the government has granted the company "pioneer" status, giving it a 10-year tax holiday.

Lynas says it has added earthen fill to the site for the storage facility to double the distance between waste products and the water table to 4.1 meters (14 feet).

The waste will contain low levels of thorium, a radioactive chemical which can cause cancer, but the concentration of thorium is very low and stays low, it says.

But it isn't clear how long the waste matter will be stored at the plant. Lynas says its storage facility has been built to a standard that would allow the waste to be stored permanently, although it only expects storage for 17 or 18 years. It hopes to sell the waste as a base for road construction after reducing its radioactivity concentration to safe levels.

Treated waste water from the plant will go into the Balok river at an average rate of 213 cubic meters (7500 cubic feet) per hour, raising concerns about the impact on marine life and on the livelihoods of the fishermen along the coast. Officials at Lynas say the concerns are unfounded and the discharged water will meet with Malaysian regulations.

From her perch close to the Balok river, Kak Su, who sells the daily catch local fishermen bring in, smiles quietly. She is resigned to her fate.

"The government will decide, I don't think they'll make a bad decision," she says. "I don't think the protesters will get anywhere," she adds.

(Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Richard Pullin)

High Court sets June 19 to hear injunction application by Lynas

High Court sets June 19 to hear injunction application by Lynas

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 (Bernama) -- The High Court will on June 19 hear an injunction application filed by Lynas Corporation Limited and Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd to restrain 'Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas' (SMSL), an anti-Lynas group, from further publishing defamatory articles on Lynas.
Judge Datuk John Louis O'Hara set the date in chambers after meeting lawyers Rishwant Singh and KH Wong who representing Lynas, and lawyer Gene Anand Vendargon who represented SMSL Sdn Bhd (Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas).
The injunction will be heard as inter-parte.
Lynas had filed an ex-parte injunction application, but SMSL as the defendant succeeded in its bid for the injunction to be heard as inter-parte.
SMSL's counsel, Gene Anand told reporters that Lynas had filed its amended statement of claim by adding three more defendants in the suit and they would file an affidavit in reply within two weeks after receiving the document from Lynas.
He said his client has yet to be served with the suit.
However, Rishwant declined to reveal the names of the three defendants. Meanwhile, in a different court, Judge Dr Prasad Sandosham Abraham fixed June 12 to hear an injunction application by Lynas to restrain the operator of online news portal 'Free Malaysia Today'(FMT), from publishing defamatory articles on Lynas.
On April 19, the two suits were filed separately at the Civil High Court registry.
In the first suit, Lynas Corporation of Sydney, Australia, and Lynas Malaysia named MToday News Sdn Bhd as defendant, while in the second suit, they named SMSL Sdn Bhd and its two directors, Tan Bun Teet and Lim Sow Teow, as defendants.
In the suit, Lynas claimed that FMT on March 6, had published a defamatory article on its website while SMSL had published a defamatory article dated March 22, on its blog site.
Lynas is seeking general damages and aggravated damages, costs and an injunction restraining the defendants from further publishing defamatory articles on Lynas.


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Lynas' bid to gag activists thrown out

Lynas: Bid to gag FMT, activists fails

Teoh El Sen | May 2, 2012  from  Free Malaysia Today
The High Court has fixed May 9 for case filing of all relevant documents.
KUALA LUMPUR: An attempt by Australian rare earth miner Lynas to obtain court injunctions against pressure group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) and news portal FMT from releasing “more defamatory material” hit a stumbling block today.
High Court judge John Louis O’Hara this afternoon allowed an application by SMSL to have the injunction heard in an inter-parte (between the parties) basis, instead of being heard ex-parte (by one party), according to SMSL lawyers.
O’Hara has fixed May 9 for case management for filing of all relevant documents. The actual hearing of the injunction, as well as the main defamation suit, will be decided later.
“As far as we’re concerned, the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, so today we asked the court that we should also be heard first before it decides to bar us from speaking. This concerns our right to be heard,” lead counsel for SMSL, Bastian Pius Vendargon, told reporters here after proceedings in chambers.
Vendragon said that SMSL lawyers – which include Pahang Bar Council chairman Hon Kai Ping, R S Pani and Gene Anand Vendargon – had only found out about the ex-parte hearing by chance on Monday as no documents have been served upon his clients.
“We found out when we were going through the court list on Monday and we immediately made preparations to turn up today to stop this ex-parte hearing from going through,” said Bastian.
It is understood that FMT, whose legal representative was not present today, has not received any documents from Lynas as well.
Bastian said that the suit will most likely be heard jointly though he added he cannot speak on behalf of FMT, which is not his client.
“This is also a special case in which it concerns and involves the public, and my clients are acting not only for themselves but on behalf of the public, who fear for their life and property in this matter,” he added.
“If you want to take a bulldozer and flatten my house, you should get an injunction, but in this case, an injunction will interfere with our freedom of speech,” Bastian said.
A busload of support
It is also learnt today that Lynas, which is represented by lawyers Rishwant Singh and Jeff Leong, intends to add in three additional individuals in its defamation suit against SMSL.
In the main suit, filed on April 19, plaintiffs Lynas Corporation Ltd and Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd are suing SMSL Sdn Bhd, its chairman Tan Bun Teet, and Lim Sow Teow, for defamation. Both are shareholders and directors of the SMSL company.
Lynas said that an article entitled “Civil Society Organisations joint statement on Lynas issue: SMSL & NGOs statement against Lynas” dated March 22 contained statements that were “false”, “damaging” and “defamatory”.
In the suit against FMT’s company, M Today News Sdn Bhd, Lynas claims that the article “Lynas Must Go” dated March 6 also contained “false”, “damaging”, and “defamatory” statements.
For both suits, Lynas is seeking general damages, exemplary damages and aggravated damages, costs and interests as well as other reliefs deemed fit by the court.
Lynas is asking for an injunction to stop both defendants from publishing defamatory statements or articles until the decision of the trial.
Meanwhile, a busload of Kuantan residents and supporters turned up in court to show support to SMSL. They staged a short protest outside the court, holding up placards and shouting “stop Lynas!”
The placards read “Lynas you sue us we sue you back”;”Defamation= open+honest communication?”.
Addressing the media, Tan said: “As a citizen’s and civil society group, we have every right under the Malaysian constitution to protect our family, our livelihoods, our environment and our country.”
“Lynas is taking advantage of Malaysia’s weak civil liberty law by using this defamation legal action to gag us,” Tan said, adding that Lynas would not be able to do this to its critics in Australia.
On April 20, Lynas had announced that it has commenced defamation proceedings at the High Court against FMT and SMSL for “false and misleading statements” which both had allegedly made.


Citizens to counter Lynas’ defamation suit

Press statement of Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL)
Citizens to Counter Lynas’ Defamation Suit
May 2, 2012

SMSL together with a bus-load of residents from Kuantan joined by their supporters from the capital city Kuala Lumpur (KL) have converged outside the KL High Court this morning.
They will stage a peaceful protest action against Australia’s Lynas Corporation which will be seeking an exparte injunction to gag SMSL and Malaysian NGOs from expressing their concerns and opposition to the rare earth refinery project.
“As a citizen’s and civil society group, we have every right under the Malaysian constitution to protect our family, our livelihoods, our environment and our country.” Said Mr Tan Bun Teet, a Kuantan resident and the spokesperson for SMSL.
“Lynas is taking advantage of Malaysia’s weak civil liberty law by using this defamation legal action to try to silent us.  In Australia, Lynas will not be able to do this to its critics. What kind of international standard is Lynas practicing here?”  asked Mr Tan.
SMSL is a people’s organisation consisting of a team of highly committed community volunteers backed up by strong public support from all over Malaysia and concerned citizens internationally.
SMSL has sought expert advice on the Lynas project.  It has had investigative research carried out on Lynas Corporation and its rare earth project by highly qualified independent professionals both in Malaysia, Australia and elsewhere.
Professor Tan Ka Kheng, a chemical and environmental engineering expert and a waste management specialist explained “It is generally recognised that openness, trust and participation are all essential for communication and stakeholder involvement on radioactive and toxic waste. Yet Lynas has chosen not to do this.”
Professor Tan further added, “Malaysians are not new to rare earth refinery.  I was involved in the Papan and Bukit Merah rare earth case. I am concerned that Lynas is trying to jump the gun to push ahead with its operations without having conducted a detailed EIA as require by law and to comply with the IAEA's recommendations, and without having found a safe permanent waste facility for its millions of tonnes of radioactive and toxic waste.”
Lynas’ court action to try to silent civil society groups goes directly against its public stance that it will implement all of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommendations for its rare earth refinery project last June.  The IAEA has especially emphasized that Lynas should improve on its community engagement.
Mr Tan commented, “Clearly, Lynas has failed to live up to its own words choosing instead to use Malaysia’s defamation law for its community engagement strategy.”
“Our views and position are backed up by accurate and reliable data and research findings.  SMSL has secured the support from high caliber expert witnesses ready to testify in court if and when the need arises.” Concluded Mr Tan.