Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Malaysiakini - Lynas opponents mount beachside protest

Lee Long Hui
May 30, 11

Nine UN atomic energy experts may have had their breakfast interrupted by a protest against the Lynas rare earth plant this morning, at an open-air café on Teluk Cempedak beach in Kuantan.

NONEHundreds of angry residents gathered to express their dissatisfaction in front of the café, located in a hotel where the experts - members of a review panel - are staying.

The crowd, mainly comprising retirees, mothers and children, were led by the 'Save Malaysia' group, gathered at the beach around 7.30am and marching towards the hotel at 8am.

Chanting “Stop Lynas” and “Lynas, go back Australia”, they also carried posters and banners with messages like 'Lynas get out', 'Australia exports dirty industries'. They also sang the national anthem.

NONEThe protest drew the attention of hotel guests. Curious foreigners took photos, while some local guests clapped their hands to show solidarity with the protestors.

It could not be immediately established if members of the panel were among the guests at the time.

A hotel worker drew the curtains to shut out the sight of the protestors, but they reacted quickly to move to a better spot where they could be seen clearly.

The hotel did not stop the protest, although it manages that part of the beach front. A security guard watched silently, and the police arrived only after the crowd dispersed peacefully about 8.40am.

Protests against the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (Lamp) in Gebeng, near Kuantan, have continued despite the government's assurance that its operations will be safe - a claim that the expert panel will consider in carrying out its work.Level of independence 'doubtful'

'Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas' chairperson Tan Boon Teet said he was not happy with the members of the panel, claiming that they were selling and promoting nuclear technology and had previously been backed by certain interest groups.

NONETan (right), who replaced Vincent Jiam who resigned as the chairperson three days ago, added that their level of independence is doubtful.

Tan also explained that the group chose to hold its protest this way to let the panel understand the stand of Kuantan people against Lamp, and “we also want foreigners to know that a poisonous factory from Australia is coming to Malaysia”.

The expert team selected by the IAEA to undertake the review consists of nine persons and will be led by Dr Tero Varjoranta of Finland.

Varjoranta is the director of the nuclear fuel cycle and waste technology division at the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy.

The external experts are Jan van der Steen (Netherlands), Dr Leo M Lowe (Canada), Dr PM Balagopala Pillai (India), Dr Dennis Wymer (UK), and Ulric Schwela (Finland).

The internal (IAEA) experts comprise of Dr Magnus Vesterlind (Sweden), Dr Horst Monken Fernandes (Brazil) and Hanna Kajander (Finland), while Hiroko Raticliffe will be the administrative assistant.

All the members of the panel are recognised experts in their respective disciplines and have specialised knowledge on issues relating to radiation protection, safety assessment, waste management, transportation, and decommissioning and remedial actions.

The team will complete its work in Malaysia on June 3, and is expected to submit its findings and recommendations to the government by the end of June 2011.

They will be having two closed-door hearings at the hotel and will conduct a site visit during their stay in Kuantan starting from today until Wednesday.

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