Friday, May 3, 2013

Pakatan’s Scaremongering over Lynas Nearly Cost Malaysia Dearly

The landmark Lynas rare earths plant has been one of Malaysia's success stories in recent years, catapulting the nation into the exclusive club of countries that have access to such advanced technology. Yet this almost did not happen, with pro-Pakatan Rakyat groups launching a vicious misinformation campaign against Lynas in an attempt to score brownie points against the Government.
Let's be clear: getting Lynas to set up the world's biggest refinery for rare earths here – the first to be set up outside China in three decades – was a huge coup for Malaysia. It would allow us to develop expertise in processing rare earths, a technology that few countries possess.
The fact that the plant was proven to be safe by international experts, including from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), should have been enough for any doubters.
But Pakatan and its friends couldn't resist making claims that were ill-researched at best, or plain defamatory at worst.
PAS even gagged its own nuclear expert, Dr. Che Rosli Che Mat, when he pointed out that Lynas was being targeted in a baseless scare campaign and the plant was indeed safe.
No matter how much evidence was collected over the last year and how many independent experts gave their balanced assessments, Pakatan refused to stop slandering the RM2.5 billion project or from scaring the Malaysian public into thinking that the plant was somehow 'unsafe' and its waste was 'radioactive'.
This scaremongering was exposed last July when pro-Opposition website Free Malaysia Today publicly apologised, admitting that its allegations did "not have a scientific basis".
"We refer to the articles previously published by us which claim that the Lynas plant may be unsafe. We apologise for these publications, as such claims do not have a scientific basis. The regulatory review of the Lynas plant has been thorough and diligent," FMT said in its apology.
Faced with this dose of reality, Pakatan backed off from direct attacks and instead used its anti-Lynas brigade to try stalling the project through legal challenges. When that failed and the plant began operations last November, activist Wong Tack went so far as to threaten that he would "burn down" the plant if BN retains power at GE13.
Instead of criticising Wong for his threat, Pakatan rewarded the activist by naming him as the DAP candidate for Bentong, Pahang, exposing the hollowness of the coalition's much-vaunted focus on law and order.
All this pressure nearly proved too much for Lynas, which came close to calling it quits on the project, before finally producing its first processed material earlier this year.
What would Malaysia have lost if Pakatan had had its way? Lynas is expected to generate jobs and income nationwide for 30 years or more. This would help Malaysia break China's monopoly on rare earth metals and broaden our fast evolving mining technology base.
So Pakatan's misinformation campaign almost cost the nation an environmentally safe plant that will generate jobs and boost the national economy.
Despite these advantages, Pakatan hardliners are still demanding that the plant be shut down. The coalition's election manifesto also threatens to "halt operations" at the Lynas plant if elected.
Despite subsequent flip-flops on this issue by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the Opposition seems bent on summarily shutting down this strategic project, even if the nation has to pay compensation to Lynas or suffers long-term damage to our national reputation as an investment destination.
Pakatan Rakyat is clearly not interested in Malaysia becoming a key player in the global economy; the coalition is simply bent on capturing power. That's all that matters to it.

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