Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Malaysian Insider - As panel meets, pro- and anti-Lynas groups face off

UPDATED @ 04:37:34 PM 30-05-2011

May 30, 2011
Fuziah was told not to bring signed petitions into the meetings. — file pic
KUANTAN, May 30 — The situation at the Hyatt Regency here threatened to turn ugly this afternoon as both pro and anti-Lynas Corp groups gathered while the review panel began meeting stakeholders this afternoon.

Several demonstrators, including three Umno assemblymen, rushed to confront Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh as she arrived to meet the International Atomic Energy Agency-led (IAEA) team at 3pm.

They demanded the PKR vice president, who has been leading protests against the controversial RM700 million rare earth plant, not be allowed to bring in signed petitions into her half-hour session and that those accompanying her remove their anti-Lynas T-shirts.

As police also pressed Fuziah to meet the demonstrators’ demands, her team complied before entering the building where the meetings are to take place.

The demonstrators were part of a group of about 100 who arrived at 2pm, holding up banners supporting the IAEA and also Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob.

About half as many wearing “Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas” T-shirts also made their stand here until police told both groups to leave the hotel.

However, both groups refused to leave outright and loitered outside the hotel premises until 4pm.

About ten light strike force officers were also deployed until the protestors left.

Earlier, pro-Lynas demonstrators had also confronted Indera Mahkota MCA Youth chief David Choi.

Choi, who has not been supportive of the project, told reporters later that he was kicked by some of the protestors.

The three assemblymen leading the pro-Lynas group included state executive councillor Datuk Mohamad Sahfri Ab Aziz as well as Norolazali Sulaiman and Mohd Zaili Besar, Guai and Panching representatives respectively.

The nine-man panel is here on a four-day visit to hear concerns from local residents and lobby groups before compiling a report by the end of June.

The government had bowed to public pressure last month and put the project by Australian miner Lynas Corp on ice pending the review by the team of international experts.

Despite the government review, Lynas expects no delay to its plans to begin operations in September as it maintains the plant is safe.

It is anticipating a windfall of RM8 billion a year from 2013 onwards from the rare earth metals that are crucial to the manufacture of high-technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and bombs.

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