Kow Gah Chie
2:23PM Mar 20, 2012
The Kuala Lumpur High Court today ordered the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to explain the scope of a temporary operating licence (TOL) it issued to Australia’s rare earths refinery plant Lynas in January.
The ruling was made by High Court judge Rohana Yusof in her chambers.
The court ordered AELB to file an affidavit to explain the scope of the licence, said lawyer K Shanmuga, who is representing a group of Kuantan residents challenging the TOL.
He said AELB has only made a statement on the approval of the TOL but has not provided details of the licence that was issued.
“The judge has asked AELB to file an affidavit to explain what exactly it has approved,” Shanmuga said.
The court also fixed April 4 to hear submissions from the governmemt and Lynas pertaining to preliminary objections of the residents.
The lead counsel for the 10 residents and applicants,Tommy Thomas (left), stressed during his hour-long submission that the TOL issued by AELB was illegal and contravened the Environment Quality Act 1974.
Thomas argued that the law was clear in that any activity involving radioactive materials needed a detailed EIA report, but no detailed study was conducted prior to the TOL being issued for the Lynas plant.
With this, he rebutted the government’s and Lynas’ grounds of objection to the leave application for a judicial review, in which both parties had argued that the residents needed to exhaust all of their appeal channels before resorting to legal action.
“Therefore, there is no need to appeal (to relevant the minister) but come to court to have the TOL quashed,” Thomas said.
Possible conflict of interest
The manner in which the public review was conducted before the TOL was issued, he argued, showed that there was no natural justice.
“The Malaysian Medical Association also called for Lynas to be scrapped, unless it showed it was fail-safe,” he said.
Thomas further said there was a possible conflict of interest between Lynas and AELB, as Lynas will pay a percentage of its revenue to AELB.
The group of 10 residents in Gebeng, Kuantan, had on Feb 17 filed a judicial review challenging the TOL and named the AELB, the Department of Environment’s director-general of environmental quality and Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd as respondents.
Both AELB and the DoE’s director-general of environmental quality were represented by senior federal counsel Suzana Atan and Noor Hisham Ismail from Attorney-General’s Chambers, while Lynas was represented by Dominic Puthucheary and Wong Kah Hui.
The courtroom was packed with Gebeng residents, lawyers and media personnel, with some members of the public forced to crowd along the aisle and sit on the floor.
Meanwhile, the residents also protested outside the courtroom, waving banners carrying the wordings: “Buang sisa Lynas dalam rumah Najib” (dump the Lynas waste into Najib’s house).
They also expressed their disagreement with the government’s move for a parliamentary select committee to study the Lynas plant project.