Can a series of short films halt an impending environmental disaster called Lynas?

By Magick River

Lynas claims its rare earth processing plant will provide 350 jobs to Malaysians. Big deal – especially when Lynas will be exempt from paying taxes for 12 years on its projected earnings of approximately RM8 billion a year.

Madam Lai Kwan was pregnant in 1982 when she worked at the Mitsubishi rare earth refinery in Bukit Merah, Malaysia. This film is a peek into the life she has led since her child was born in 1983…

I applaud Tan Chui Mui’s cinematic initiative, dubbed Survival Guide untuk Kampung Radioaktif , wherein she recruited a group of young filmmakers to raise public awareness on an extremely serious issue through satire, humor and empathy. What prompted Tan to take action is the simple fact that she was born 33 years ago in a fishing village named Sungai Ular, a stone’s throw from the site in Gebeng, Pahang, where Lynas Corporation  is in the process of completing what is touted to be the world’s largest  rare earth processing plant.

According to Fuziah Salleh, PKR member of parliament for Kuantan, Lynas submitted its Environmental Impact Assessment to the Pahang state government on 21 January 2008 – and it was approved in less than 3 weeks.

Something like that can indicate one thing only – a few powerful and privileged palms were heavily greased.  Even more astounding, Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry granted Lynas the very next day a 12-year tax holiday. Undoubtedly, dishonest bureaucrats, bribeable panjandrums, and extremely lax environmental enforcement  were the main reasons why Lynas picked Malaysia for its highly polluting rare earth processing plant – and the fact that Gebeng is situated in Pahang, Najib Razak’s home state, may also be a factor.

Twenty years ago, Lynas would have met with little, if any, public resistance. However, times have changed. The people of Kuantan are up in arms about the imminent destruction of their peaceful, low-stress lifestyle. Indeed, the 700,000 residents of Kuantan district have good reason to be stressed out by Lynas’s giant rare earth processing plant – because they live within a 35km radius of it.