Back then, the federal and the state governments chose to sideline the welfare of the rakyat and sided with a giant conglomerate, recalls Choo Sing Chye. Has anything really changed?
Never for once has the Barisan Nasional government stood by the rakyat on issues that are dear to their hearts. For an example, their pursuit for a cleaner environment had always been hindered by the machination of the government.
Apparently by not having the rakyat’s welfare at heart, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) Maximus Ongkili has forsaken the “prime duty” of the regulatory authorities that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had proposed.
The IAEA, which was invited by the government during the Bukit Merah and Papan controversy, made many recommendations, and one of them was the “prime duty” which the regulatory authorities should “adhere” to:
there is one principle to which all should adhere: regulatory authorities (Government) should be effectively separated from implementing organization (ARE), since … the prime duty of regulatory authorities is to protect Man and the environment, ensuing the … radiation doses to Man do not contravene the recommendations of the ICRP regulation.
Contrary to what the IAEA had recommended, the federal and the state government, in the case of the Papan and Bukit Merah controversy, chose to sideline the welfare of the rakyat and sided with the giant conglomerate – Mitsubishi Chemical, Japan.
Likewise in Ongkili’s case, by ignoring the rakyat’s welfare, he had deviated from the “prime duty of (the) regulatory authorities… to protect Man and the environment”.
Unmistakably, the proof is in his unambiguously expressed statement where he said: “the onus is on them (anti-Lynas group), not on me, to say that decision of the board is not correct. So give me additional information to point to the fact that it was not a wise decision” (Ongkili’s interview with Malaysian Insider, 15 April 2012)
Let us wind back the clock to 28 years ago, in the same frame of mind, the then Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Amar Stephen Yong, let loose his uninhibited hostility towards the residents of Papan and Bukit Merah by demanding proof that the radioactive dumping was hazardous to health. He also challenged critics of the radioactive waste dumps to prove that the dumps were not safe.
Following close behind, Ramli Ngah Talib, the then Menteri Besar, told the press that the thorium waste dumps were safe and went on to say “that although some foreign experts claimed that the dump is unsafe, it is merely their opinion ”.
Dr Mahathir even remarked that the activists were naïve to the fact that the government was committed to the safety of the dumps.
But in the end, like huge slaps on their faces, the IAEA team reported the same faults as the experts invited by the anti-radioactive groups:
The already constructed three trenches which definitely do not meet the required specifications. They are not constructed in accordance with the basic principles of sound civil engineering and should therefore not be accepted for the storage of Thorium Hydroxide waste.
Apparently, the crux of the matter was that the “prime duty” was not upheld in the Bukit Merah and Papan dispute, and unfortunately, this trend has not stopped.
The importance of the “prime duty” must be upheld without fear or favour, and if we are presented with a problem similar to what had happened in Japan recently – how will the government respond?
This is one case that the rakyat would never in a million years believe that any hanky-panky would happen in Japan – lying about the level of radiation exposure.
In Japan, where prime ministers come and go at a slightest mistake, this is a no-no, but it happens! (See this Terra Daily report: Japan probes claim workers’ radiation levels faked)
But if it happens in Malaysia, then, who should bear the onus of blame? Maximus Ongkili?
Choo Sing Chye, a former Perak state assembly member, served as politcal secretary to the late P Patto.