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Putting people's health first

  • What happened at Sungai Kim Kim must never be repeated anywhere else in this country.

Sin Chew Daily

Tens of thousands of Malaysians rose up to reject the Lynas factory several years ago. Unfortunately then BN government failed to listen to the people to close down the rare earth factory in Kuantan.

Malaysians began to see a ray of hope only after the 2018 general elections that saw the collapse of the BN administration, and public attention was once again on the destiny of Lynas factory after PH took over the federal government.

Energy, science, technology, environment and climate change minister Yeo Bee Yin issued an ultimatum to Lynas late last year to fulfill its promise of shipping the piled up toxic waste out of the country or the government would not renew its operating license.

At that time many thought that it was final, and Lynas would have to be closed down soon.

However, entrepreneurship development minister Mohd Redzuan Md. Yusof poured the cold water lately, arguing that the government would not order Lynas to close while urging foreign investors not to be worried.

According to Mohd Redzuan, the move was meant to create a business-friendly environment for foreign investors.

We cannot deny that foreign investments are very important for developing countries like Malaysia because they could bring in job opportunities for the locals and stimulate the economic development.

As such, it is excusable for the government to value foreign investments, but not at the expense of our environment and Malaysians' health.

Indeed the government needs to create a business-friendly environment to lure foreign investors here, but we cannot afford to take in all investors without carefully screening them.

While foreign investments are very important, the government should not blindly accept all of them but must take into consideration other factors such as environmental contamination and health concerns as highlighted in the Lynas issue.

According to minister in the prime minister's department Fuziah Salleh, who is also the MP for Kuantan, Lynas has accumulated up to 15,000 tons of radioactive and other harmful wastes over the past five years of its operation. The underground water in the vicinity has been contaminated by heavy metals and this is posing a severe threat to village residents around Gebeng industrial park.

As a consequence of the recent contamination of Sungai Kim Kim by toxic chemical wastes, several thousand people have been hospitalized and over a hundred schools have been closed.

This should serve as a stern warning to the authorities of the pressing issue of environmental pollution so that what happened at Sungai Kim Kim would not be repeated elsewhere in the country.

Back to the Lynas issue, before the government makes any decision, it must take into account all possible consequences, and must prioritize the health and right of Malaysians.

 

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