Lynas dears final hurdle

Aussie rare earth plant gets Dewan go-ahead after it was found to have met all requirements needed

SO on Tuesday the controversial Lynas Advanced Materials Plant got the go-ahead from the Dewan Rakyat to operate the facility in Geheng, near Kuantan, after it found that the operator has fulfilled all the requirements to ensure safety and transparency.

It may still have to go through a gauntlet of opposition, protests and court injunctions but with the passing of the report by Parliamentary Select Committee on Lynas after a day-long debate, it is almost certain that the Australian rare earth plant can go ahead to process the raw materials.

Much of the opposition to the siting of the plant in Gebeng, some 2km from Kuantan, is over concerns raised on radiation pollution but committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who is higher education minister, said Lynas is the "safest" plant in the world as the radiation emitted is going to be very low.

Proposing to put his money where his mouth is in so far as the safety of the plant is concerned, Khaled said he was willing to live next to the plant during the processing of the raw materials, including thorium which he said is safe enough to be held by hands.

In this he had an unlikely ally in the form of scientist Dr Che Rosli Che Mat (PAS-Hulu Langat), who stood up to contradict Tian Chua (PKR-Batu) on his claim about the risks of allowing the plant to operate in Gebeng.

But true to his training and religion Che Rosli said: "As a nuclear scientist, I can say that the nuclear radiation is very low, but other factors, such as residue management, that I leave (them) to the experts."

On Wednesday, the Dewan vetted the government's request for an additional RM13.79 billion to the RM232.8 billion given under Budget 2012 tabled in Parliament last year.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, a former finance minister, was in his elements when speaking out against the government request made under Supplementary Supply (2012) Bill 2012.

He lambasted the government for its poor financial management and alleged all kinds of missteps and abuses including the lack of care taken to ensure that taxpayers' money is not spent as if it is personal money.

Of course, he was queried over the RM3 billion that he was alleged to have stashed away in 20 master accounts, reports of which had gone viral in newspapers and cyberspace over the past few weeks.

He said he was willing to be investigated over what was alleged by former Bank Negara assistance governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid, who had made a statutory declaration in 1999 over the handling of the accounts.

"But there should be an open investigation. Investigate accounts belonging to my family and me and also the accounts belonging to the prime minister, deputy prime minister and their families," he said during the debate.

Among those who took part in the debate were Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (PKR- Machang), Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (BN-Pasir Salak), Wee Choo Keong (Ind- Wangsa Maju), Datuk Bung Moktar Raden (BN-Kinabatangan) and Datuk Seri Abdul Ghapur Salleh (BN-Kalabakan).

AirAsia and its chief, Tan Sri Tony Fernandez, also came under special focus over recent news reports over what the budget airline and its boss did especially relating to its expansion to Indonesia.

Tajuddin proposed that the government allow another Malaysian budget airline to operate to provide competition to the monopoly held by AirAsia, which seemed to have forgotten that its success was due to government's help.

"The time has come for the government to stop bowing to them. If they want to move to Jakarta, let them go," said Wee, who seemed to be at the forefront in scrutinising the activities of AirAsia. But he is also keeping his sights trained on Malaysian Airlines and its boss Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

On Monday the Dewan passed the Medical (Amendment) Bill 2012 to strengthen the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) and improve the regulation of the medical profession.

It will also empower MMC to better manage the 35,000 medical practitioners in the country, including establishing a specialist registry which Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said was not an attempt to erode the powers of the Academy of Medicine.

On the same day, it also passed the Environment Quality (Amendment) Bill 2012.

Tajuddin spoke out against the Penang government for going ahead with the hillslope projects despite public objections.

Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau), during the debate on the bill, lamented the lack of progress in dealing with the haze problem, which has become an annual phenomenon affecting almost the whole of Malaysia.

"If we know where the hotspots are, we can ask the Indonesian authorities to beef up enforcement there. If not, we will hear the same excuse every year."

Chong Eng (DAP-Bukit Mertajam) was clearly peeved when her Question 14 asking for the government plan of action to reduce domestic violence was not answered as Question Time ended with only nine questions answered

"I hope I will get the written reply by the end of the day," she said, adding that it had become a practice lately for the reply be given the next day together with the other replies. Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia told all those involved in preparing the answers to take note and said it would be better if questions were short and answers just equally short so that all written replies could be handed out the same day.

On Wednesday, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi promised to reply to all allegations related to the Scorpene submarine deal on next Tuesday.

The Sun, Page: 14
Friday, 22 June 2012

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