Malaysiakini – Stop political violence, Bersih tells Najib

7:04PM Feb 29, 2012

Electoral reform coalition Bersih 2.0 has urged Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to act against the serial political violence inflicted on opposition politicians and civil society activists by thugs reportedly related to Umno and Perkasa.

Should such impunity on political violence continues, it will leaves no room for clean elections in Malaysia, Bersih 2.0 warned.

“If political activists are met with physical assaults even before elections, could the safety of opposition leaders and campaigners be guaranteed come the next election?” said its steering committee in a statement today.

The committee, co-chaired by former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan and national laureate A Samad Said, demanded that Najib order immediate investigations and prosecution of those responsible for the two latest incidents of political assault on Feb 26.

penang himpunan hijau 260212On that day, a group of thugs identified to be Umno Youth and Perkasa members allegedlyattacked the anti-Lynas protesters in Penang, in which two reporters were injured.

“Most shockingly, the police personnel looked on and did not do anything. Later, the Chief Police Officer (CPO) of Penang, Ayub Yaakob, blamed it on the organisers for not informing the police of their event,” said the coalition.

NONEOn the same day, PKR MP for Lembah Pantai Nurul Izzah Anwar was allegedlyassaulted by Asrullah Affendi Abdullah, an assistant of Umno Lepar state assemblyperson Mohd Shohaimi Jusoh, at  Felda Lepar Hilir 1, Gambang, Pahang.

“These two are not isolated cases. Forums by student activists and the Anything But Umno (ABU) movement had experienced similar attacks and no one has yet been charged in court,” read the statement.

However, both Umno and Perkasa had denied that their members had used violence in the two incidents.

The election watchdog warned that if Najib refuses to take action to end such political violence, to have the assailants prosecuted and to punish those police personnel who shirked their responsibility, Malaysia may be pushed to the edge of chaos and unrest by electoral violence.

“In this alarming development, Bersih 2.0 calls upon Malaysians and the international community to establish an election observation mission to mitigate such a threat,” it added.

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/190697

Malaysiakini – Residents have mixed feelings over Lynas safety

Abdul Rahim Sabri, Lee Long Hui & Nigel Aw
11:52AM Feb 29, 2012

As rare earth mining giant Lynas clears it’s licence hurdle with the Atomic Energy Licensing Board, Kuantan residents will soon face the prospect of living near a hazardous waste processing plant, the first to be built outside of China in almost 30 years.

NONEKnown as the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp), the largest of its kind in the world, the RM700 million facility will be crucial in breaking China’s monopoly on the global rare earth supply.

While Malaysian leaders appear eager for the country to play host to a facility that will take on the ‘Asian Dragon’, the small coastal town of Gebeng, approximately 30km northeast of Kuantan and its surrounding townships are suddenly under the spotlight.

Lamp will produce three forms of by-products but locals and environmental activists are most concerned about possible leakages in the storage of the leech water purification waste containing radioactive thorium and uranium.

Lynas aims to fire up its facility by the second quarter of this year but opinions about the plant and how serious this will affect locals’ vote come the general election remain mixed.

A majority of people around Kuantan appear torn over the plant’s safety despite guarantees from the government and Lynas Malaysia, and some are even mulling to move out from the town.

Unconvinced over safety of facility

Restaurant operator Nor Azlina Ahmad Suid, who has been residing in Kuantan since 1997, is among those who want out.

NONE“I will certainly go elsewhere, what is there to wait? There will be illness,” said the mother of three children.

Though admitting that she is unclear of Lamp’s impact, she is unconvinced by reassurances that the facility is safe.

“Even though the government gives its guarantee, but it can say anything it likes, we will never know what will happen in future,” she said.

She adds that she will hold the government responsible at the ballot box in the event of any fallout.

Meanwhile, pickled fruit seller Baharudin Salleh, who has lived in Kuantan for the last 45 years, questioned Lynas’ insistence to operate in Malaysia instead of in Australia.

“If it is safe then they should do it in their country, but they want to do it here, what is the reason?,” he asked, adding that he may consider moving out.

Asked for his view if Lynas would be a factor for locals come general election, he replied: “This will likely affect BN here.”

NONEMeanwhile, Suzliana Mohd Ghazali (right), 33, who helps her mother in a grocery store is concerned that the plant will affect their business.

“When it (Lamp) is ready, tourists may be less keen to come to Kuantan, especially since the plant is near the coastal towns such as Cherating, Balok beach and Batu Hitam beach,” she said, while her 60-year-old mother silently watched on as she rocked Suzliana’s four-year-old son in the cradle.

Suzliana who resides in Kampung Pantai Batu Hitam, 15km south of Gebeng, has three other sons aged ten, eight and seven.

While she accepts the government’s explanation that the plant is safe, Suzliana said still worries about the long-term effects.

Nonetheless, she will remain in Kuantan because she has “no other choice” as her husband works here and they have already bought a house.

“But before my house was priced at about RM145,000, suddenly after the Lynas factory came up, people wanted to sell their houses and my house is now at about RM125,000.

“The market has fallen drastically,” she lamented.

There has not been empirical evidence to show that the fall in prices was a direct cause of Lamp.

Asked if she considers Lynas an important election issue, she replied: “Of course.”

Perception battle will hurt Kuantan

On the other hand, Asrul Zamani (right), 36, who operates a food stall does not see this as an election issue or that it will affect his business.

NONEHowever, he is concerned that the back and forth safety argument between the government and activists will create negative perceptions and affect Kuantan’s economy.

“The government keeps saying it is safe, but I don’t know, there are others who say at a point in future it will become unsafe because it has radiation… so the rakyat are asking whether this is really safe or not,” he said.

Asrul currently lives in Kampung Cenderawasih, near the heart of Kuantan and is a father to three children, aged eight, three and one.

He adds that whatever happens he will remain in Kuantan, saying: “We’re just a small business, not a big tauke, like it or not we must remain here, what can we do?”

As for Joesmart Ali (left), 35, who resides in Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s constituency of Pekan but works in Kuantan as a security guard, says he is largely influenced by his friends.

NONE“I asked many of my friends, is it true Lynas is harmful and I can see that they’re all fearful,” he said.

However, he said, it would make little difference in opposing the project, stating:

“This is for the people above to decide because they have the power, we don’t have any power so we can only follow, if we were to die then so be it.”

Asked if this will influence him at the ballot box, Joesmart appeared uncertain, merely saying: “I don’t know, maybe it’s politics, people are saying it’s harmful but the government says otherwise, if anything bad happens they will have to be responsible.”

Meanwhile, Rozana Sali, 50 who runs a Malay traditional medicine shop is confident that Lamp is safe.

“During former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s time, many people questioned his mega projects such as the Penang Bridge, Cyberjaya and Proton, but today Malaysia has developed,” she said proudly, adding that she will continue to support BN.

Similarly, Rohmah Deraman who runs a pickled fruit stall said she is satisfied by the government’s guarantee, on top of explanations from her friends in the Pahang Malay Chambers of Commerce.

“BN’s vote will be unaffected come general election,” she said.

http://fuziahsalleh.my/wp-admin/post-new.php

Malaysiakini – Fuziah: Najib may have made sub-judice comments

1:23PM Feb 28, 2012

Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh said Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, may have made sub-judice comments over the weekend, when he assured that the Lynas plant is safe.

She said that as the 10 residents had filed a judicial review application in court, and he, representing the executive, should not have commented on the case.”This is sub-judice as what he says can influence the court which is hearing it. This can be deemed as interference from the executive,” she warned.

NONEHence, Fuziah (left) said Najib’s statement will be viewed seriously and she will consult the lawyers on their next course of action.

Over the weekend while the Green rally was held in Kuantan on Sunday, Najib had commented elsewhere that the Lynas plant is safe.

Ten residents had filed a judicial review application on Feb 17, challenging the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) in granting a temporary operating licence (TOL) on Jan 30.

Today, the matter came up for the first time at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, where they faced a preliminary objection from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, which is representing the AELB.

Question where waste will go

Fuziah said there are questions to be raised as where the rare earth from Lynas will go.

“In Gebeng Lynas has a Residue Storage Facility and there are questions whether the waste will be stored there permanently or for a long period of time. This is because Australia had said it would not accept the waste as it did not originate from there (Australia). So are we going to store it here?” she asked.

She also posed that Australian firm Lynas had said in documents submitted to the AELB that the facility can store waste “within 20 years” and it is acting on a loophole of only finding an alternative place to store it after 14 years.

“This is a mockery and danger to society and this makes a mockery to Najib’s slogan of 1Malaysia, People first concept,” she said.

She also asserted that despite the preliminary objection raised by the government, several residents had already filed appeals with the minister following AELB’s decision to give the TOL.

“We will continue with the judicial review application as we believe AELB may have breached regulations and procedures to approve the project,” she said.

No detailed EIA loophole

Fuziah said one of the questions is why there was no requirement for a detailed environment impact assessment (DEIA) report on Lynas.

She claimed that the AELB says that they cannot empower or impose the requirement as it does not fall within its jurisdiction.

“AELB claims it falls within the Department of Environment’s provision to do the DEIA and not the board.

“There is clearly an incoherent procedure in Malaysia, for the government to allow the setting-up of the largest rare earth processing plant in the world. Can we truly manage this when the AELB and DOE cannot decide whether a DEIA is required?” she said.

For these reasons, the Kuantan MP said, the residents are opposing the project.

“We have asked Lynas to hold an open dialogue with us as a requirement of the DEIA but it refuses as they claim it is not bound to do so,” she said.

Fuziah said the question remains whether the BN government can manage, after granting the approval, if it then faced the possibility of an environmental disaster.

Malaysiakini – Gov’t raises objection to Lynas legal challenge

Hafiz Yatim
11:18AM Feb 28, 2012

An attempt to mount a legal challenge against the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) for awarding a temporary operating licence (TOL) to Australian-based company Lynas has come up against a setback.

The Attorney-General’s (AG) Chambers raised a preliminary objection today on behalf of the AELB at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

It argued that the 10 residents who filed the application have not exhausted all avenues available to them, including appealing to the minister.

Senior federal counsel Suzana Atan and Norhisham Ismail raised the preliminary objection when the matter came up in chambers.

The applicants, including a retired naval warrant officer, a production shift manager and a mechanical fitter, want the TOL licence to be quashed.

Lynas has applied to reply to the applicants’ affidavits, as well as to an affidavit by a chemical engineer who recorded his expert opinion on the disputed rare earth refinery project in Gebeng, Kuantan.

The company has also adopted the government’s preliminary objection.

Justice Rohana Yusof fixed March 20 to hear the matter.

The applicants are represented by K Shanmuga, Aston Paiva, Maha Balakrishnan and Azira Aziz, and Lynas by Dominic Puthucheary.

Initially, it was fixed for an ex-parte (one-party) hearing, or in this case, the application of the residents today for leave (permission) to initiate a judicial review of the matter.

Normally, the respondents do not appear during the leave stage, since the matter is ex-parte.

In applications involving declaratory prayers, the parties involved are required to obtain leave from the court to make sure that their applications are not frivolous and vexatious, which may abuse the court process.

Supporters from Kuantan

Two buses ferrying supporters from Kuantan arrived early this morning to back the applicants. They were met by their counterparts in Kuala Lumpur who were wearing anti-Lynas T-shirts.

Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh was in court, together with PAS environmental committee chairperson Zulkefly Mohd Omar.

Zulkefly a former PAS candidate in the Bagan Pinang by-election, had once led residents to oppose the Broga incinerator project in Selangor.

The applicants want Lynas to be required to carry out a detailed environment impact assessment (DEIA) study, to be submitted to the Department of Environment.

They have claimed that the granting of the TOL is unconstitutional as it violate their equality, right to life and right to hold property. They claim that the AELB’s decision to give the TOL is ultra vires (beyond its powers).

Lynas, they claimed, lacks the experience in extracting rare earth oxides from rare earth concentrates or ore, which is the main function of the Gebeng plant.

The residents also want a stay (deferment) on the operation of the Lynas until a full DEIA is done.

They and other opposing the plant were clearly upset that the proceedings were carried out in chambers as they  had hoped for an open court hearing.

About 100 of the supporters gathered inside the courtroom, sporting the yellow anti-Lynas T-shirts.

As the public gallery was full, they were stood along the aisle and some sat on the floor.

The police officer in charge of the courts, DSP N Munusamy, was present to ensure everything was in order.

After the lawyers and Fuziah briefed the supporters and residents on what had transpired, they shouted anti-Lynas slogans demanding that Lynas moves the RM700 million plant to Australia.

They then boarded the two buses that were parked at the court compound to return to Kuantan.

Malaysiakini – Stop speculating on incident at Penang rally, say cops

Bernama
7:43PM Feb 28, 2012

Police have urged the public to stop making wild and provocative speculation through the Internet on an assault incident at the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 in George Town last Sunday.

Northeast district police chief Asst Comm Gan Kong Meng said such speculation would only worsen the situation, besides disturbing the police investigation into the incident.

“We are still gathering evidence and calling for witnesses in order to complete our investigation paper to enable the suspects involved to be arrested as soon as possible,” he told reporters in George Town today.

He said police also regretted claims that they were slow in controlling the situation that day until the gathering turned unruly.

“This incident was reported widely through the blogs and social web pages while the organisers actually did not inform the police before holding the gathering. But when such an incident happened, they accuse the police of not acting fast.”

Gan said so far, five police reports had been received on the incident.

He said the case was being investigated under Section 147 and Section 143 of the Penal Code for rioting and unlawful assembly respectively.

In the 6.30pm incident on Sunday, local Chinese dailyKwong Wah Jit Poh reporter Andrew Chew, 29, and photographer Lee Hong Chun, 25, sustained head and body injuries after being assaulted by some of the participants of the gathering.

The Himpunan Hijau 2.0 in George Town saw nearly 1,000 people protesting against the building of the Lynas Corp rare earth processing plant in Gebeng, Pahang.

The situation turned rowdy due to the presence of a non-governmental organisation which opposed the gathering.

– Bernama

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/190582

Malaysiakini – Himpunan Hijau to organise green-yellow protest next

Lee Weng Keat
4:36PM Feb 27, 2012

One day after Himpunan Hijau 2.0, and without a positive response from Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 steering committee today announced “Himpunan Hijau 3.0 is on!”

NONEHimpunan Hijau 2.0 steering committee chairperson Wong Tack(middle in photo)said in a statement that Najib’s statement yesterday was not what they were expecting.

“Therefore, we hereby confirm that Himpunan Hijau 3.0 is on!”

Bolstered by a good turnout, Wong Tack have yesterday issued a 24-hour ultimatum for the federal government to shut down the Lamp processing plant.

Wong Tack today also said that it will work together with Bersih 2.0, to organise a ‘green and yellow Himpunan Hijau 3.0’.

“We realise and strongly believe that in order to have a clean environment, we need a clean government.

“Thus, looking at the positive partnership of Himpunan Hijau and Bersih 2.0, we will discuss with Bersih’s steering committee on the possibility of organising a joint green and yellow Himpunan Hijau 3.0.”

Wong told Malaysiakini that the future gathering will be held before the next general election, or once Lynas starts to ship in rare earth materials from Australia.

“We will make sure that there will be a (political) tsunami to send it back,” said Wong, adding that the gathering will be held nationwide and even abroad.

NONEIn his statement, Wong welcome “the firstresponse from our prime minister” on the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) project.

“We feel encouraged but unfortunately, the answer was not what we are expecting.”

“Himpunan Hijau is extremely shocked that until today, our leaders are still very much ill-informed of the actual scientific facts and danger of the Lynas project.”

Wong criticized Najib’s suggestion to dump the massive amount of radioactive waste far away from habitated area as being “totally senseless and unacceptable!”

“This remark from the top leadership in this country is of grave concern to the people because it reflects a shallow understanding of the ecological system and blatant disrespect of the natural environment.”

“Every inch of our motherland is a precious natural asset to our nation. The landscape of the countryside is an ecologically sensitive system of forests, rivers and food production farmlands.”

Wong urges Najib to resist “pressure from certain groups” and make the right decision in protecting our future generation from risks of widespread contamination and pollution.

“We hope this decision will come before Himpunan Hijau 3.0. The action or inaction of the prime minister will be remembered for generations to come.”

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/190441

Malaysiakini – Journo attacked at Lynas rally gets eight stitches

Susan Loone
9:50AM Feb 27, 2012

Adam Chew, a reporter from local Chinese daily Kwong Wah Jit Poh who was assaulted during a fracas during the Penang anti-Lynas rally yesterday, has sustained injuries to his right hand requiring eight stitches.

adam chew kwong wah jit poh journalist fracas in penang himpunan hijau rallyThe rally was part of several nationwide protests by Himpunan Hijau 2.0 to condemn the Lynas plant in Kuantan for its potential radioactive hazards.

The Penang event at the Esplanade (Padang Kota Lama) was the only one disrupted by ‘pro-Lynas’ demonstrators who heckled the Himpunan supporters with slogans, vulgarities and physical disruption.

In the fracas that ensued, another Kwong Wah daily reporter on duty, Lee Hong Chun, was also hit with a helmet, but he only sustained light bruises on his head.

adam chew kwong wah jit poh journalist with blood on fingersChew (right), however, had to seek medical treatment at the Penang General Hospital emergency ward at about 8pm yesterday, after police dispersed the rally around 7pm.

When contacted last night, Chew said he was “fine” but experienced a slight headache as he claimed he was hit on his head by about six men from the pro-Lynas group.

He said he will visit the doctor again tomorrow as his eyes have what appears to be blood clots.

“I can’t work, and the doctor has given me medical leave and asked me to return to see him if I experience any dizziness,” he told Malaysiakini

‘Hurt while protecting CM’

Chew related how he got caught in the scuffle while on duty covering the 500-strong rally, part of a series that went on smoothly in other states like Kuala Lumpur, Perak and Kuantan.

adam chew kwong wah jit poh journalist fracas in penang himpunan hijau rally kick“It happened when Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was going down the stage after his speech, to join the protesters.

“The hostile crowd gathered, trying to harass him but his security personnel formed a human chain around him.

“But the hostile group managed to break the chain and I was in between (the two parties). I tried to stop them from getting to the CM,” said Chew (photo above, in green).

The group had taunted the anti-Lynas protestors even before the rally began, telling them to “go home to Kuantan” as it was not a Penang issue.

Despite the noise and disruption from the hostile group, the anti-Lynas protestors took it in their stride matching their hecklers’ chants and pressed on with the event.

‘Cina babi, Cina bodoh’

Chew claimed the hostile Lynas supporters scolded him and hurled racist remarks at him such as “Cina babi(Chinese pig)” and “Cina bodoh (stupid Chinese)” for supporting Lim as Penang CM.

He added that the group became angry when he chided them for reportedly using such racist innuendos.

NONE“They grabbed my hand. One of them hit me with a helmet, and five others hit me on the head,” he said.

“All I did was try to prevent them from attacking the CM,” he added.

Last night Lim paid Chew a visit at the hospital, together with several DAP leaders and his press secretary.

When contacted, the CM said he felt touched by Chew’s gestures but was upset over what has happened to the journalist.

Lim condemned the alleged racist remarks used against the journalist, saying he will call a press conference to talk about the issue this morning.

“I have also told my press secretary Wong to monitor Chew closely. If he feels dizzy or unwell, he is to quickly get the latter to the hospital for examination,” he added.

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/190386

Malaysiakini – Anti-Lynas rally a test of Najib’s resolve

Nigel Aw
4:27PM Feb 26, 2012

The Najib administration was today challenged on two fronts – its insistance over the safety of the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (Lamp) and execution of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2011.

himpunan hijau 2 260212 overview 930amSome 15,000 people descended on Kuantan today backed by hundred others in solidarity rallies across the country including Kuala Lumpur, Sarawak, Perak, Sabah and Penang.

The events were triggered by the Atomic Energy Licencing Board’s (AELB) decision to approve a Temporary Operations Licence (TOL) for the Lamp, that has prompted the largest protest in the country since last year’s July Bersih 2.0 rally.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak appeared to have felt the heat, with Nanyang Siang Pau quoting him saying that the TOL will not be issued to Lynas if the public was not comfortable with Lamp.

NONENajib reportedly said this just hours after the rally concluded in Kuantan, the capital of his home state Pahang, and a short drive away from his constituency of Pekan.

The prime rally in Kuantan today saw locals and outsiders turning up in force to voice their dissatisfaction against what they see to be an environmental disaster in waiting.

It brought together several other groups afflicted by environmental concerns throughout the country and even cultural activists who are dissatisfied with the MRT project at Jalan Sultan.

While these people had their various concerns, they were unified by their dissatisfaction towards the federal government.

‘Opposition capitalises on discontent’

Perhaps sensing the potent combination of dissatisfied groups, the opposition wasted no time in capitalising on the rally.

While condeming Lynas, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in his speech which capped off the rally declared: “If we capture Putrajaya, we will cancel Lynas’ (plant).”

NONEMeanwhile, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang had also warned BN that today’s rally was a warning that it may lose more seats in Pahang come general election.

As political party members unfurled their party banners, a couple was heard whispering: “They shouldn’t do this, tomorrow the newspapers will say that we’ve been hijacked by political parties.”

Politicians had undoubtedly attempted to benefit from today’s major rally, but there were equally large numbers of common folk, local and non-locals who were passionate and sincerely concerned about the project.

Common folks, real concerns

A 60-year-old grandfather who only wanted to be known as Haji Mohamad had said: “I’ll probably die in five or six years but my future generation will suffer because of Lynas”.

NONEWhile the young were passionate in their cause, most of the elderly people interviewed admitted that they were unclear of the details of Lynas, but simply opposed it because they felt the risk posed towards their children and grandchildren wasn’t worth it.

On the virtual front, Lynas’ website was hacked and replaced with a fluttering Malaysian flag with the words: “Stop Lynas, Save Malaysia”.

However, regardless if the rally was a combination of genuine concern for Lamp or a political opportunity, it has increased the pressure on the government.

Although the TOL had been approved, it has not been issued pending compliance of several conditions set for Lynas.

New law’s first test

On the government’s side, this was its first opportunity  to redeem itself after the highly-criticised Peaceful Assembly Act 2011 came into force with today’s rally being the first major to take place under the new law.

himpunan hijau 2 260212 in coming supporters 02Despite rally organisers violating the new law by briefly marching and bringing children to the rally, Kuantan OCPD Mohd Jasmani Yusof appeared lenient, stating that he would advise rally organisers and that it would serve as a future example.

Suhakam commissioner Mohd Sha’ani Abdullah who was present as an observer had praised the police’s performance today but stressed that the Peaceful Assembly Act remains flawed and must be improved.

Police today largely facilitated the rally from the sidelines and had merely advised participants who had gathered elsewhere to proceed to the designated site.

The law imposes rigid restrictions on peaceful demonstrations, however no major complaints were received from participants or organisers.

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/190347

Malaysiakini – Penang anti-Lynas rally disrupted, smooth elsewhere

Leven Woon & Susan Loone
7:58PM Feb 26, 2012

The Penang leg of solidarity gatherings for the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 rally in Kuantan was the sole event which saw disruptions, with two journalists hurt during a fracas that erupted at the rally.

NONEHimpunan Hijau supporters began gathering at the Penang Esplanade were met by a hostile group, which includes local leaders from Umno Youth and Malay rights pressure group Perkasa, numbering about 50.

Several members of this group have often been spotted at anti-Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng rallies organised by Suara Anak-Anak Malaysia and Komtar Traders Association vice president Abdul Ghani Mohammed Jiman.

When the event kicked off at about 6.00pm, the hostile group began jeering Himpunan Hijau supporters and telling them that this was not a “Penang issue”.

penang lynas himpunan hijau 260212Some shouted “Hidup Umno”, “Hidup BN”, “We want freedom” and “BalikKuantan (Go back to Kuantan)”.

Several Himpunan Hijau supporters who offered to debate with the hostile group were shouted at, pushed and told to stop their protest.

By this time, the Himpunan Hijau crowd that swelled to about 500, retorted by chanting anti-Lynas slogans, and  “Hidup rakyat (Long live the people)”.

By about 6.15pm, no police were in sight despite the intense shouting match which ensued.

Freedom to speak, not harass

Penang executive councillor and Tanjung MP Chow Kon Yeow who was first to address the crowd, saying that the freedom of speech of both pro and anti-Lynas supporters must be respected.

penang himpunan hijau 2 260212 05However, Chow said if the pro-Lynas supporters wanted to express their views, they could have organised another protest, instead of “harassing and disturbing” their opponents.

“The pro-Lynas supporters say this is not a Penang issue. But this is not a political issue, it is something that concerns all Malaysians,” he said.

“And if this is not a Penang issue, then why are they shouting here?” he added.

penang lynas himpunan hijau 260212Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng arrived at the scene at about 6.30pm and addressed the Himpunan Hijau supporters, affirming Pakatan Rakyat’s stance against the Lynas rare earth refinery in Gebeng, near Kuantan, because of potential radioactive hazards.

He also urged the crowd not to be cowed by the opposing group gathered just near by.

Upon hearing this, the hostile group showered Lim with a barrage of vulgarities and popular Hokkien swear words, prompting Himpunan Hijau crowd to boo them.

adam chew kwong wah jit poh journalist fracas in penang himpunan hijau rallyThey also continued chanting “Guan Eng penipu (liar)” and asked him to return to Malacca, the CM’s place of birth.

The hostile group also shouted at the CM to “please settle Penang problems first, before talking about issues in another country or state”.

However, Lim braved all the obscenities, and told the crowd that those who supported Lynas did it for the money as the company benefitted only Umno cronies.

Journalist assaulted

Following this, Lim attempted to leave the stage and join the crowd but the hostile group started to push participants and a fracas ensued.

adam chew kwong wah jit poh journalist with blood on fingersAccording to eyewitnesses, two journalists from local Chinese daily Kwong Wah Jit Poh – Adam Chew (left) and Lee Hong Chun – were struck with motorcycle helmets.[See videos below]

Lee, when met later, said his head was injured, and that he was hit by the pro-Lynas members while snapping shots of the group trying to stop Lim’s car from leaving the field.

The police finally moved in at about 7.15pm, blaring sirens and demanding that the crowd disperse.

Unlike Penang, other solidarity rallies in major towns and cities elsewhere proceeded smoothly.

In BUKIT MERAH, Perak some 1,000 people gathered at the former Asian Rare Earth (ARE) refinery at 11am for a 90-minute rally to show support for the Kuantan counterparts.

Rally organiser Hew Yoon Tat, when contacted, said he gave a speech during the event where he reminded the public that the cleanup works for the now defunct ARE was still ongoing and thus still pose a danger.

“The government should put a blanket ban on rare earth processing factory,” he said.

Bad experience

He said past experience with the ARE have caused doubts with the assurances being given over the soon-to-be operation Lynas plant.

Back in 2003, Bukit Merah residents were told that two years were needed to decommission the ARE.

NONE“He said the reason being is the factory needed to be torn down part by part so that the radioactive waste would not go into the village.

“How come last time when it was in operation you claimed it was not harmful and now you said it is harmful?” he asked.

In KUALA LUMPUR, some 500 people gathered in front of Maju Junction shopping centre (above) along the busy Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman in a three-hour gathering.

Gatherings from Penang to Tawau

It was a festive atmosphere during the gathering which saw participants singing songs and displaying their placards for oncoming vehicles, encouraging them to honk in support.

Other than musical performances, some participants also donated small locks of hair which was later used to spell out the phrase “Stop Lynas, save Malaysia” on the sidewalk.

In KUCHING, Sarawak, some 30 protesters converged at Taman Sahabat, Jalan Song for a solidarity rally, but was forced to cut it short to about 15-minutes because of heavy rain.

Organiser William Lee drew comparisons between the Lynas plant and the country’s the first aluminum smelter in Balingian, Sarawak which has caused plants within 3km ratio to die.

He warned that a similar scene might happened in Gebeng.

There are also reports of solidarity gatherings being held in Tawau, Kota Kinabalu, Sibu, Miri, Kluang and even as far as Melbourne.

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/190371