‘Lynas, show us your waste conversion plan’

December 13, 2012

A coalition of 80 NGOs demanded today that Australian miner Lynas reveals its plan to convert the wastes from its rare earths refinery in Gebeng into commercially safe products that will be exported.

If Lynas fails to publish this plan, together with three other documents, the NGOs said, the International Trade and Industry Ministry should suspend or cancel the company’s temporary operating licence (TOL).

The coalition, named Solidariti Hijau, submitted a memorandum containing its demands to the ministry deputy secretary-general at the office in Kuala Lumpur today.

The documents the coalition wants made public are:

  • The research findings plan for the recycling of the wastes generated;
  • The emergency response plan to control the spread of dust in the air and environment;
  • The plan and location for the permanent disposal facility and waste management plan; and
  • Lynas’ innovative approach proposal to convert the wastes into commercial products that can be used in and out of the country.

At a press conference after the memorandum was submitted, coalition member Green Clean World chairperson Zulkefly Mohamad Omar said, “All these issues raised should be resolved before the TOL was granted, TOL and not after.”

NONEZulkefly (left) said the TOL was granted in haste and without reference to the Basel Convention, which is an international treaty to reduce and prevent the movement of hazardous wastes between countries.

Under the Basel Convention, Lynas is barred from exporting its wastes to other countries.

Abdul Rahman Maidin of the Institute of People and Rights pointed out the confirms that the wastes from the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant are “dangerous” to health.

“If everyone else in this world says ‘please don’t bring this waste to our country because it’s hazardous’, that means the people in this country are facing a hazardous operation.

“It will be irresponsible on the part of the government to allow this thing to continue,” Rahman (below) said, adding that the government should close down the Lynas rare earths refinery.

NONEThe TOL issued to Lynas in September only requires it to submit the plan for a permanent disposal facility plan within 10 months of the licence being issued.

Lynas has claimed that the wastes from its refinery can be completely converted into a commercially safe product called “synthetic aggregate” that it would market internationally. The plant to convert the wastes has been built in the refinery, it said, and it was now ready for operation.

This proposal has received the green light from Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maximus Johnity Ongkili, who said Lynas could even market the converted product in Malaysia if there are local buyers.

The conversion plan has drawn much scepticism, but Lynas is yet to release any detail on this.


Umno’s Ponzi scheme

December 4, 2012

Malaysians need not fear that we will become like Afghanistan because Afghanistan has learnt from us and has become like us.

A New York Times

report headlined ‘Audit says Kabul Bank began as Ponzi scheme’ bears a striking resemblance to the way Umno runs this country.

hamid karzaiInvestigators have claimed that the Kabul Bank has been fraudulently obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars and siphoning it off to a few individuals connected to President Hamid Karzai (left).

The war-torn country is trying to get to grips with the concepts of western democracy and banking, but public trust and confidence in the government has been shattered by the revelations of crony capitalism and corruption on a massive scale.

Governments around the world are shocked at the Kabul Bank scandal but are turning a blind eye to similar events in Malaysia, where institutions routinely siphon off money to Umno and its cronies.

An audit by the Kroll investigative firm has revealed that the Kabul Bank’s financial duplicity was mired in controversy and cover up. There was a political conspiracy involving those at the very top of government to stall the investigations.

This is no different from Malaysia. Recent cases are the political interference concerning Tajuddin Ramli’s involvement in the Malaysia Airlines scandal, the Sabah Umno and Michael Chia fiasco and the National Feedlot Corporation case.

The Kroll report also revealed that official stamps had been issued to fake companies so that forged papers could be made to look legitimate. The bank kept two sets of books to dupe auditors and loans were issued in the names of the owner’s friends, relatives and even domestic servants.

Sherkhan Farnood, the bank’s founder and chairperson, stashed the loot in Dubai. It is also claimed that money was smuggled out of Kabul via an airline belonging to shareholders linked to the bank. Kharzai’s brothers, who were implicated, have claimed innocence and escaped prosecution. No one appears accountable or has taken responsibility for the alleged fraud.

NONELast week, Umno held its 66th general assembly. It was laced with theatrics, its members reduced to tears by a song, and a former premier wielded more influence than the incumbent. All these are signs that the country, not just the party, is in trouble.

The way Umno operates is similar to a Ponzi scheme but instead of making a financial contribution, Malaysians have had to pawn their livelihood and their children’s future, just to keep people at the top of the scheme in power and wealth.

Charles Ponzi, Bernie Madoff, and Kautilya Pruthi, the British equivalent of Madoff, had conned people out of their life savings but were eventually caught and jailed. In what is known as a Ponzi scheme, people were lured into investing their hard-earned cash with con merchants who offered them in the short-term, higher returns than any other investments could provide.

Change from within

Umno’s Ponzi scheme is destined to fail. With the increase in Umno warlords, greater demands are exerted on the kitty, which is financed by the taxpayer. Those who are more senior in Umno want a greater share. The VVIPs and their children have to be appeased. The fickle-minded, untrustworthy party ‘frogs’ also need feeding.

An Umno member would find willing victims to become party members, force them to swear allegiance to be a true member and get them to find fresh recruits.

Like any pyramid scheme, only those at the top of the pyramid reap the benefits. For instance, Umno divisional heads are given incentives to keep them happy. It is alleged that they can demand government projects of a certain fiscal value, to pass on to their cronies and members.

NONEIn some cases, divisional heads are alleged to be given hundreds if not thousands of taxi permits as inducement.

With each taxi driver being obliged to pay about RM30 to the company per day, it is not difficult to work out how many millions of ringgit some people can make per month.

Why does Kuala Lumpur need 35,000 taxi drivers? When there is a glut of drivers, there is depressed income from fares and more drivers sinking into debt.

The Ponzi-type scheme Umno operates also uses religion and affirmative action policies to keep the Malays under control, but Malays need to understand one thing – they do not owe the government a living.

A student on a Mara loan or scholarship should be beholden to the taxpayer for funding his studies. When the government is guilty of corruption or injustice, the student should not keep quiet because he thinks he is beholden to the government for his education. He is not.

azlanSadly, many Malays refrain from criticising the government because they feel indebted to the government when in truth, they should be grateful to the taxpayer. The Malays know that Umno does not represent them, but they have been brainwashed to keep silent, with tiny inducements and the fear of God to keep them in check.

The government should give every Malaysian child a decent standard of education and equal opportunities, but even the privileged are cheated.

The method with which Umno rules the country dwarfs the Kabul Bank Ponzi scheme. The west does not give a damn what happens in Malaysia just as Umno does not care at all what it is doing to Malaysians.

The west wants to please the government so that the Employees Provident Fund can continue to buy up properties abroad, a refugee swap deal can proceed smoothly, Malaysian taxpayers can purchase the latest weaponry or that a rare-earths refining plant can be built.

The rakyat cannot rely on the west for help, so any changes have to come from within Malaysia.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

Avoiding a centenary of Umno’s rule

December 3, 2012

It is obvious by now that Umno will never change. Judging from the waves of public protests involving multiracial crowds over the last two years, the determination on the part of a significant segment of Malaysian society to exorcise the ghost of May 13 is unambiguous as well as undisputed.

Still, Umno’s ruling elite, lacking policy imagination and integrity, will do everything to ensure that the country remains haunted by the racial backlash that happened more than four decades ago.

NONEThe choice has become much clearer after Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s scare tactic at the Umno general assembly two days ago: vote Barisan Nasional and see one dignity trampled in perpetuity, or opt for the alternative with a view to overhauling and reshaping Malaysia’s political structure.

None of the speeches by Umno leaders at the assembly has been inspiring. Shahrizat’s shameless reference to the 1969 national tragedy should be condemned by all in no uncertain terms, yet her party colleagues have failed miserably to assure the general public there would be a peaceful transition of power in the event of regime change.

Muhyiddin Yassin’s warning of chaos should Pakatan Rakyat come to power is indicative of the fact that the highest echelons within Umno may not rule out the possibility of resorting to extra-constitutional measures, while rule by decree is not a fantasy. It happened in May 1969 under Najib Abdul Razak’s father, and it can happen again.

And what is so special about Najib’s ‘apology’ over BN’s past mistakes that it has captured the attention of all the propagandists masquerading as ‘senior journalists’, including Tay Tian Yan of Sin Chew Daily?

NONELet’s put Najib’s sincerity under the closest scrutiny, The following is exactly what the apprentice prime minister who has been dodging his political opponents and the rakyat in public debate actually said:

Bumi mana tak ditimpa hujan, laut mana tidak bergelora, bahagian dunia manakah yang wujudnya orang, atau pimpinan, atau persyarikatan atau parti yang tidak pernah tersandung atau tersalah. Di atas segalanya, sebagai kepimpinan parti dan kerajaan, kami menyusun jari nan sepuluh memohon maaf atas kekhilafan.”

The keyword here is ‘kekhilafan’, which means ‘kesilapan’ in colloquial Malay, or ‘omission’ in plain English. One Indonesian dictionary defines it as ‘kesilapan yang tidak disengaja’, or ‘unintentional omission’.

Has Najib shown penance?

Now, can one search one’s own heart and say Najib has indeed shown penance for all the transgressions committed by the BN government over the past few decades?

Or does one honestly think the wanton use of all the draconian laws – ranging from the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act to the Emergency Ordinance – has been unintentional? Or the series of misuse of public funds and the inability to weed out corruption are merely an ‘omission’?

azlanOr the shocking murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu was simply a negligence on the part of the two ‘accused’, a case in which no motive was found for the killing? Or time and again firing teargas into peaceful crowds was just a ‘mistake’?

Furthermore, when Najib asked ‘in which corner of the world is there a leader or a party which has never made a mistake’, he was practically behaving like Jackie Chan. When Chan’s mistress went public with his extra-marital affair more than ten years ago, the movie star ‘apologised’ by arguing that he had just ‘misbehaved’ as any other man in the world would.

Can one take it as a heartfelt apology?

As Umno’s arrogance and obstinacy are laid bare, the emperor is proven naked again. Portraying Najib as a reformist, as many ‘senior journalists’ have been doing, is a futile attempt, for a real leader must be bold enough to do the impossible, including confronting the conservative forces within the party. Najib has been given more than three years to prove his calibre, but has failed to rise to the challenge at every opportunity.

One may ask: would the alternative be any better given that PAS is bent on implementing its idea of an Islamic state?

azlanThe fact is, Malaysia’s public institutions – be it Parliament, the judiciary, the police force or the public service – have been turned into serving only Umno’s interests. The Malay party could not have maintained its rule for so many years without having first subjugated all these institutions.

The next general election represents a golden opportunity for Malaysians to put the country back on the right track; it is also a chance for us to restore the original spirits of the Malaysian federation by introducing an electoral reform that could ensure no one political party is dominant and also giving powers back to the various federal states, epecially Sabah and Sarawak that have been reduced to nothing more than colonies.

To achieve all these noble goals, one must first and foremost stop whining but be courageous enough to get rid of Umno. Anything short of that would only turn out to be a self-fulfiling prophecy: A centenary of Umno’s rule.

JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.