Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said that the government will stand firm on Lynas’ licence renewal issue, saying that it will go according to the views of the experts and scientists who understand about the danger of radioactive waste.
The Prime Minister said the government cannot always listen to popular views especially when it involved a small group of people making use of the alternative media to promote their ideas to the extent of giving the hammering to anyone who goes against them.
“Now I want to stick to what was reported by the experts. If it’s a very dangerous material, then we will, of course, solve it. But the report says that it is not dangerous…that the waste is put in just one place.
“Maybe there is a big concentration…we are ready to disperse it but we cannot export because nobody wants to accept it, and we cannot throw it into the sea either because the fish will die. If it’s true, we want to go according to the expert’s view,” he said after officiating the 62nd International Statistical Institute (ISI) World Statistics Congress (WSC) at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre today.
Dr Mahathir was commenting on the claim by certain quarters that the day the nod or green light was given to Lynas licence renewal was a shameful day for Malaysia.
On Aug 15, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board announced that the operating licence for the rare earth processing plant owned by Australian miner Lynas Corp had been renewed by six months. The operating licence of Lynas was earlier extended for three years from 2016 to Sept 2 this year.
However, the renewal of the licence this time came with several major conditions, which include the transfer of its cracking and leaching process to another country and the construction of a permanent disposal facility.
Lynas is also required to terminate all research and development activities on water leach purification radioactive residue as condisoil for agriculture.
Prime Minister further explained that it was hard for the government to decide on the issue after experts confirmed that there was no danger.
“People’s popular view is one thing. The expert’s view is another. Do you go according to the popular view or do you go according to the expert? If u go according to the popular view, there is nothing you can do, because every time we propose to do something, there will be some people who are against it,” he said.
Dr Mahathir also said that the government have a choice to make, either to get rid of the industry and lose credibility in term of dealing with foreign direct investment, or go ahead and take care of what is considered to be a problem.
“We can take care of that problem. There is no problem. Actually, in the Cabinet (meeting), we have already discussed this,” he said.
Earlier today, hundreds of protesters turned up at a gathering in Pahang to demand the government shut down Lynas following Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) decision to grant the Australian firm a six-month temporary licence.
The protest also sought the resignation of scores of PH MPs for flip-flopping on the issue as they were seen supportive of the rare earth plant to remain.
In a painstaking attempt to convince naysayers, the prime minister again pointed to the experts, saying the 700 qualified or highly-trained scientists working with Lynas proved its operations are safe.
He then said it is unlikely that disaster would strike Lynas like the infamous nuclear incident that killed thousands in Chernobyl, in modern-day Ukraine.
“It is not Chernobyl. Chernobyl was dangerous, this is not,” he said.
“There are 700 qualified scientists working there and they have never complained.
“The ones that complained are some neighbours instead.”