With tables turned, Najib goes after former Lynas opponents in Pakatan

Anti-Lynas demonstrators rally in front of Parliament compound in Kuala Lumpur April 10, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Anti-Lynas demonstrators rally in front of Parliament compound in Kuala Lumpur April 10, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — Pakatan Harapan’s decision not to force Lynas Corp to remove its rare-earths waste from Malaysia has opened a new avenue of criticism from former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Najib made several online posts yesterday to remind the public of the ruling coalition’s previous rejection of the Australian rare-earths miner, taking particular aim at DAP’s Bentong MP Wong Tack who rose to prominence for his strident objection to Lynas.

The Pekan MP recalled that Wong had once camped out for weeks at Dataran Merdeka here to protest against the Lynas Advanced Material Plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, when the latter said he was working to rid the country of the facility.

Wong was finally working for the public and being paid for it now, Najib pointed out, before adding that the former was also appointed as the chairman of the Malaysian Timber Industry Board by Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok.

“But his government is not getting rid of Lynas.

“So, is he working for the people to get rid of Lynas? Or is he getting a salary so that his government can keep Lynas?” Najib said, who also visited Kuantan yesterday.

The former prime minister also posted an undated photograph of Wong, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at an event to protest against Lynas prior to the general election.

In the image, they had their arms crossed to approximate a cross as a mark of rejection, but Najib mocked this by captioning the image with “Wakanda forevah”, in reference to Marvel’s Black Panther movie.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad confirmed this week that the government was dropping its requirement for Lynas to repatriate its water leach purification (WLP) residue as a precondition for its licence renewal.

Instead, the firm was directed to explore a permanent waste disposal (PDF) facility to treat its rare-earths processing residue.

Lynas Corp previously insisted that it cannot manage to export 450,000 tonnes of the WLP residue, a by-product of their refinery operations, by September and offered to build the PDF as a compromise.

The firm agreed to build the facility last year following the recommendation from the executive review committee appointed by the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry.

However, Minister Yeo Bee Yin then insisted that Lynas must export its waste back to Australia as a prerequisite for Lynas’s licence renewal.

Following approaches by Yeo’s ministry, Australian authorities flatly rejected any possibility of accepting the Lynas waste in their country.

Prior to the 14th general election, the rejection of the Lynas rare-earths refinery in Kuantan was among platforms PH had used to garner public support.

Since then, the coalition has warmed to the idea of rare-earths processing in the country, with the Entrepreneur Development Ministry defending the industry as potentially worth RM100 billion and the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry identifying other possible locations for rare-earths mining and development.

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