Scuffle in Parliament lobby over Lynas issue

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 26, 2013): Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Datuk Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah lost his cool and got into a scuffle with an anti-lynas group at Parliament when trying to defend the Lynas rare earth plant.

After receiving the memorandum from Fuziah Salleh (PKR-Kuantan) and several representatives of the Gebeng residents at the old Parliament lobby today, Abu Bakar kept guaranteeing that the plant was "safe".

"The Lynas factory is as safe as a "kicap" factory.

"I can take you all for a site visit to the factory to see the facilities. Expenses will be fully borne by the ministry," he said.

He added that they have to be accompanied by experts of international standards and a media team for the field trip.

He became defensive when Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas chairman Tan Bun Teet, who is also a resident in the area raised questions on the permanent disposal facility (pdf) and environmental issues that have not been addressed.

"Why are you defending Lynas? Just answer our questions," Tan said.

"I have to protect it because the Atomic Energy Licensing Board issued a temporary operating license (TOL) to Lynas.

"And the board comes under my ministry. So I have to protect it!" Abu Bakar said, raising his voice as he shoved the representatives.

Abu Bakar in his tireless attempt to guarantee that the plant is safe, continued to raise his voice while the clearly dissatisfied representatives and residents continued questioning him.

The dispute led to both parties shoving each other.

Abu Bakar was also seen getting into a direct argument with the anti-lynas group lawyer Rahiza Zulkifli, pointing his finger at her and warning her not to raise her voice at him.

“Don’t point your finger at me. This is so rude!” Rahiza told Abu Bakar.

“You don’t raise your voice!” he countered.

Pressured by the questions shot at him on the safety aspects of the plant, Abu Bakar who was fumbling with his pocket notebook, snapped at the group stating that he is a new deputy minister.

“I just took office three months ago. I do not have the details and expert answers to all your questions.

“I have to ask my officers here,” he said pointing to ministry Director General Raja Datuk Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan.

When asked why he didn't allow Abdul Aziz to reply to the questions, Abu Bakar again became defensive saying: “If I let him reply then you will say the minister is scared to reply.

“I need to read up on the chronology of the events on Lynas and understand the issue,” he said.

At this point the group questioned how Abu Bakar, who had no knowledge of the plant, can guarantee that it is safe after one visit and mockingly told him to " do his homework" first.

“How can you call this project safe after visiting it only once? We have been living with it for more than two years now,” said Tan.

Fuziah, who was calm throughout the shouting match, said that the ministry had failed to address the concerns of Kuantan folk, besides making claims without getting public feedback.

She said that the government and the people of Kuantan are not on the same wavelength on the safety aspects of the plant since the government has not responded to the environmental hazards.

As the deputy minister's security officers escorted Abu Bakar away from the scuffle, Fauzi Abdul Rahman (PKR-Indera Mahkota) shouted "to hell with Lynas!" and challenged Abu Bakar to shift the plant to his area if it was so safe.