As protest over Lynas mounts, Dr M says rather listen to experts

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks during the launch of the 62nd International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress 2019 (ISI WSC 2019) at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre August 18, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks during the launch of the 62nd International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress 2019 (ISI WSC 2019) at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre August 18, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 18 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today he would rather listen to experts than opponents of Lynas Corp, as the prime minister continues to defend his Cabinet’s decision to allow the rare earth miner to operate in the country.

The Langkawi MP insisted that the public trust the views of experts who found it safe to store or dispose of the water purification leach waste on domestic soil, saying those opposing the decision were only a vocal few.

“We have sent experts to examine the place and the experts said there is no danger, but people insist there is danger.

“Popular view is saying one thing and the experts are saying one thing but if you (always) go by popular opinion it will be difficult for the government,” he told reporters at the 62nd International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress 2019, held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here.

Earlier today, hundreds of protesters turned up at a gathering in Pahang to demand the government shut down Lynas following PH’s decision to grant the Australian firm a six-month temporary licence.

The licence was given on the condition that it built a permanent disposal facility (PDF), or find a suitable foreign location to dispose of its waste, which anti-Lynas environmentalists claimed is highly radioactive.

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.

Dr Mahathir said today his Cabinet initially heeded public pressure and had instructed Lynas to repatriate its waste, but suggested that it is left with no option but to dispose it here after the Western Australian government refused to allow it enter its soils.

“My Cabinet... decided that we are prepared to export the waste but nobody wanted it,” he said.

“So we cannot just throw it in the sea or the fish will die.”

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.”

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