UPDATED @ 05:18:01 PM 20-03-2012
By Yow Hong Chieh
March 20, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — Dewan Rakyat today approved the formation of a select committee on the Lynas issue, which the opposition has described as “yet another public relations exercise” by Putrajaya.
The motion, tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, received more ayes than nays after a short but heated debate over the true objectives and scope of the panel.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs questioned the point of the select committee given that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had already said the government will not be bound by the panel’s decision.
Opposition lawmakers, led by Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, charged that the panel was a “gimmick” meant to fool the public into thinking their views counted despite the government having already decided on the matter.
Najib had said last week that the select committee would not decide the fate of Lynas Corp’s rare earth plant in Kuantan, which has stoked fears of radiation pollution.
Nazri answered, however, that the prime minister had only stated that Putrajaya may not choose to abide by the panel’s decision to allay any suspicion that the select committee would not be neutral and independent.
“We have to show that the parliamentary select committee has the right to make its decision…,” he explained.
“It comes back to the issue of neutrality. That’s why the prime minister said we won’t be bound. If he had said yes, then there would be no need for the PSC and we would just decide if we should carry on (with the project) or not.”
The de facto law minister stressed that there was no mention of “whitewashing” issues raised by critics in the motion he had tabled and urged opposition MPs to refer to the text.
“Where does it say in the proposal I’ve tabled? Does it say the PSC is intended to refute the twisted facts that have been presented?” he said.
Nazri also denied discussion of the Lynas issue in Parliament was sub judice, after Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Yusoff noted that the House had disallowed debate on the government’s many suits against former Malaysia Airlines (MAS) chairman Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli for the same reason.
Ten Pahang residents living close to the plant are challenging the Atomic Energy Licensing Board’s (AELB) decision to give Lynas approval for a temporary operation licence (TOL).
“If any party feels what we’re doing is sub judice because the TOL case is ongoing… they can make an application to the courts,” Nazri said.
He then urged PR to vote in favour of the select committee since opposition MPs had many questions about Lynas that could only be answered by the panel.
Shortly after, the debate descended into chaos despite the best efforts of Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee to keep order, with several opposition lawmakers trying to speak at once while MPs from Barisan Nasional (BN) taunted them to “leave if you don’t like it”.
Ronald then called for the vote, following which about 10 opposition MPs left the hall to speak to the press waiting in the Parliament lobby. They returned shortly after.