PAS warned its own nuclear expert not to comment on the Lynas rare earth processing plant after he tried to reassure the public that the facility in Gebeng Pahang poses no radiation or health risk.
Dr Che Rosli Che Mat, who is the PAS MP for Hulu Langat holds a PhD in nuclear science. He revealed in a recent interview that he was last year gagged by his own party after he spoke out over the plant, which he says is says is being used by opponents in a baseless scare campaign.
“They are frightening the public by saying that Lynas is a nuclear plant when its function is only to process natural materials like rare earths from Mount Weld in Western Australia,” he said.
“The issue was brought up by PKR. I’ve kept quiet and even been given a warning by the PAS information bureau not to comment.”
Che Rosli did not reveal who it was that asked him to keep quiet and said, as a PAS MP, he was prepared to toe the party line but as a scientist, he would not be gagged.
“I accepted it and have been silent, but this is unfair,” he said.
“So finally, I decided, as a nuclear expert, I should come forward to speak.”
Che Rosli said the Lynas operation involves material that is less radioactive than what is produced by traditional iron ore extraction and as such, it is totally safe. The waste material produced is of such low level radiation that it can be legally transported back to Australia without the need for safeguards.
Both the United Nations organ, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licencing Board gave the operation a clean bill of health after lengthy scientific reviews.
The news that Che Rosli was silenced by his own party will embarrass both PAS and Pakatan Rakyat and confirms the Prime Minister’s weekend claims that the opposition is playing politics over the Lynas plant.
The Prime Minister said “the opposition parties will look for issues like this as capital to garner the support of the local community.”
“We would not have given an operating licence unless we were convinced that the local community can accept that the project is safe,” he said.
Che Rosli was publicly rebuked when he last year attacked those making uninformed comments about the Lynas plant but, up until now, he had not spoken about the internal party gag.
He said at the height of the misinformation campaign the plant was being described as a nuclear reactor. It is actually no more than a chemical refining plant extracting rare elements used in television sets, mobile phones and even wind turbines.
Last week a former professional activist from Melbourne brought a legal action in Malaysia aimed at stopping the Lynas plant from opening on schedule in mid-2012.
A delay that would hurt revenues dearly, as the plant has the potential to earn RM5 billion per year.