By any measure PKR National Vice President and Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh is one of the best and brightest of Pakatan Rakyat. A member of four different groups promoting women’s causes in this country she is active as an MP on five committees in Putrajaya as well as being a mother of six and a grandmother to another six.
And it’s no wonder that despite the fact she only became an MP in 2008 her opinion is so sought after on a range of issues. The former corporate trainer speaks passionately about both the things she supports and the issues she opposes and the latter category includes the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in her very own Kuantan.
The Lynas plant will process rare earth elements that are essential in the production of devices like mobile phones, flat screen televisions and wind turbines. These metals are extremely valuable but the case for having a rare earth plant in Malaysia is not just economic but also strategic. China controls 97 percent of some of the world’s most important rare earth elements so the rest of the world is thankful when other countries enter the market. The prospect of China using its monopoly to manipulate global prices would be damaging to hi-tech manufacturing everywhere – including here.
A by-product of rare earth element extraction is low level radioactivity and this is the key reasons why the Lynas plant has become so emotive to the likes of Fuziah. Put simply she wants the plant stopped and is ignoring scientific facts in her quest.
Those facts are that most of this material she is concerned about is so low level radioactive that it is categorised as residue, a fact that hasn’t swayed her. Nor has the promise by the Australian-owned company to take this material back to Australia. She insists there is danger while any radioactive residue remains at the facility, full stop.
Fuziah was one of the loudest voices calling on the government to get a globally respected independent body to assess the safety of the rare earth plant but when that body gave it the go ahead last year she decided not to accept the referee’s decision. This is astonishing considering the body the government chose was the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the 55-year-old United Nations sanctioned group regarded as the world’s foremost authority on nuclear matters.
In fact when Fuziah received the 57 page IAEA document endorsing Lynas she simply accused the IAEA of glossing over the facts.
Now she has turned on our own Atomic Energy Licencing Board’s (AELB) for this week issuing Lynas with a temporary operating license despite the fact that the AELB was quite rightly being guided by the findings of world’s pre-eminent nuclear authority… the IAEA.
On hearing this week that the near complete plant would be allowed to operate she said “no responsible government would allow its people to be treated like lab rats”. Emotive language indeed. Demagogic words.
As the local MP where the Lynas plant is soon to operate, Fuziah can be accused of ignoring scientific facts and the world’s leading authorities. But what about her party? Does she speak for PKR and Pakatan?
As The Choice reported recently, she vowed that once in power the new Pakatan government will “put a stop to the plant” despite the fact that it will be in full production by mid-year. Would Pakatan really close down a £235 million going concern that will earn up to RM5 billion and year and provide hundreds of jobs?
Not a chance.
Closing the plant would involve paying Lynas millions in compensation so as the election approaches expect the rare earth plant to be quietly dropped as an issue and who knows, even Fuziah might have to tone down her language.