City Hall’s barricades at Dataran Merdeka here will not be a barrier for environmental watchdog Himpunan Hijau, now in the last leg of their 300km march from Kuantan to rally in the city against the start-up of the Lynas rare earth plant.
Dozens of policemen and City Hall officials are currently on standby there as well, but a spokesman for Himpunan Hijau said the group is undeterred by the blockade and will continue to walk towards the historic square — which had seen violent clashes between electoral reform demonstrators Bersih 2.0 and the police on April 28.
“Ya, ya, we know they have blocked off Dataran Merdeka.
“The plan to head there will continue like usual and will not be cancelled,” the group’s publicity chief, Lee Chean Chung, told
Mayor Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib was previously reported as saying that City Hall — which administrates Dataran Merdeka — had issued a notice warning the public against rallying at the square, which is temporarily closed to enable upgrading works to be carried out.
Over 2,000 activists who are part of the group were on the move and had hit Sentul at the point of contact. They are expected to reach Dataran Merdeka today at 4pm.
Himpunan Hijau had kicked off their cross-country journey from the eastern seaport city on November 13.
Unprecedented public anger against the Lynas plant in Kuantan has been fuelling Malaysia’s green movement that could affect voter sentiment ahead of key national polls that must be called soon.
Himpunan Hijau is among several grassroots movements that have sprouted in the last few years that have gained traction in the run-up to the 13th general elections.
The group has held several rallies in Pahang — the home state of Datuk Seri Najib Razak — and here, to pressure the prime minister to stop Australian miner Lynas Corp from firing up its RM2.5 billion refinery in Gebeng.
The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) is said to be the world’s biggest rare earth plant outside of China.
About 100 containers of rare earth concentrate arrived in Kuantan last week and Lynas has said it is ready to fire up its kiln.
Lynas has been ready to fire up since early May but faced delays due to environmental and safety disputes, which are pending in court.
Activists and Kuantan residents have challenged the government’s decision to award Lynas a temporary operating licence (TOL), which is scheduled to be heard on November 30.
They recently failed to get the court to suspend Lynas’ TOL in their bid to permanently block the plant from operating.
Huge amounts of superheated sulphuric acid are required to separate the rare earth elements from impurities found in the ore.
The Sydney-based company has repeatedly said its plant is safe and is not comparable to a rare earth plant in Bukit Merah, Perak by a unit of Mitsubishi Chemicals in 1992, which has been blamed for causing birth defects and a high rate of leukaemia cases among workers and residents nearby.
Here is a Gomen that is more interested on money than the health and safety of its own people. Lynas is only "safe" until the first disaster.
Let's not forget what Union Carbide did to Bhopal in1984.