Undaunted by the outrageous display of disrespect by thugs, the Stop Lynas protesters in Penang showed remarkable courage in turning their backs to the rowdy rabble-rousers, reports masterwordsmith-unplugged.
It was no ordinary Sunday evening at the Esplanade in Penang.
Undeterred by the unfavourable weather conditions and limited parking space (as Jalan Padang Kota Lama and the lower end of Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah had been cordoned off due to a Mindef event at the field), concerned Malaysians and even expatriates made their way to the Speakers’ Square to stand in solidarity with the people of Kuantan in their three-year long fight to stop the Lynas factory from producing radioactive wastes to poison our land and our people.
The protest organised by Solidariti SeMalaysia Stop Lynas demonstrations, together with People’s Green Coalition, Green Voters Penang, Coalition for Good Governance Penang, Penang Suaram and Sembang-sembang Forum was attended by about 700 people.
Unlike the other solidarity gatherings for the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 rally in Kuantan, Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, this one in Penang was the sole event which saw disruptions, with two journalists hurt during a fracas that erupted at the rally.
According to Malaysiakini, the group of about 50 included local leaders from Umno Youth and Malay rights pressure group Perkasa.
A crowd of about 200 was already at the field when I arrived at 5.30pm. Before the event started at 6.00pm, the hostile group strutted into the field. When the event kicked off punctually at 6.00pm, a few members of the group brazenly began to jeer at the leaders. They mocked and sneered at the crowd while insisting that they should leave as this was not an issue related to Penang.
Their cries as evidenced were drowned by the boos and responses of the protesters. Undaunted by the outrageous display of disrespect in the highest degree, the protesters continued their protests in an orderly manner by turning their backs to those rowdy rabble-rousers who in turn, tried to break through the barricade of linked arms of those who tried to maintain crowd control.
As if summoned from forces above, the crowd began to swell to 500 and then 700. This is a rough estimate as the protesters were spread out on the stage, in the field and under the trees.
Most disappointingly, no policeman was around to aid in crowd control even though there was a police van parked outside the town hall.
The protesters gave Dr Pa Khim Ghee a warm and hearty response to his speech about the dangers posed by Lynas to our country and the world.
Penang executive councillor and Tanjung MP Chow Kon Yeow gave a very timely reminder to the crowd that both pro- and anti-Lynas supporters must respect freedom of speech, especially in the Speakers’ Square.
When Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng arrived at the scene at about 6.30pm, the crowd greeted him warmly. His speech was delayed because of the obstruction posed by members of the hostile group who were adamant about disrupting the peaceful event at all costs.
In his speech to the Himpunan Hijau supporters, CM Lim Guan Eng affirmed Pakatan Rakyat’s stance against the Lynas rare earth refinery in Gebeng, near Kuantan, because of potential radioactive hazards.
In a calm voice, the CM advised the crowd not to be cowed by the opposing group gathered just near by.
In retaliation, the hostile group showered Lim with a barrage of vulgarities and popular Hokkien swear words. Naturally, the protesters booed them.
Most outrageously, one brazen member even walked to the edge of the stage and shouted “Lim Guan Eng penipu!” a few times.
The CM Lim kept an elegant composure and reminded the crowd that Lynas supporters were motivated by monetary gains as it was obvious who were the cronies who enjoyed the financial rewards.
After his speech, the CM did not have a smooth exit as the hostile group started to push participants and a fracas ensued. .
According to this Malaysiakini report:
According to eyewitnesses, two journalists from local Chinese daily Kowng Wah Jit Poh – Adam Chew and Lee Hong Chun – were struck with motorcycle helmets.
Lee, when met later, said his head was injured, and that he was hit by the pro-Lynas members while snapping shots of the group trying to stop Lim’s car from leaving the field.
The police finally moved in at about 7.15pm, blaring sirens and demanding that the crowd disperse.
The Star (27 February) reported in Shah Alam that a nuclear physicist said that the potential risks of Lynas Corp’s rare earth plant in Gebeng outweighed any positive gains that could be derived from the project.
Ahmad Bongsu Hamid Tuah, who had worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in United States, said the safety, health and environment risks posed by the plant were so high that it would not have met requirements in the United States or Europe.
He added that Europe had “precautionary principles and guidelines” which made it difficult for rare earth elements to be processed on the continent.
“Furthermore, Lynas is venturing into this for the first time. It has no track record,” he said at the ‘Selangor Says No’ to Lynas forum the previous day.
The Malaysian Insider reported that:
Datuk Seri Najib Razak today dismissed concerns raised by anti-Lynas protesters, insisting the RM700 million rare earth refinery in Kuantan is “factually and scientifically” safe.
The prime minister charged that the opposition is using the issue to gain political mileage by attacking the government to shore up local support.
“But what they are doing is not to find a solution for this.
“We want to find a solution acceptable to the people but at the same time, would not affect our investments,” he told reporters after a function here this afternoon.
Thousands of anti-Lynas protestors attended an opposition-backed mass rally in Kuantan today, in the single largest protest yet against the rare earth refinery that is expected to fire up operations later this year.
Buoyed by a successful turnout this morning, the anti-Lynas protest group, Himpunan Hijau, issued a 24-hour deadline for the federal government to shut down the Lynas plant in Gebeng or face an even bigger demonstration.
Dear Malaysian, the time has come for every one of us to arise to the clarion call and make a clear and definite OBJECTION to Lynas. It is most heartening to note that many young adults were present this evening. It just goes to show their awareness that they have to be the ones to bear the consequences of having Lynas in Gebeng if things do not take a turn for the better!
Our lives, health and that of our descendants are at risk.
What will YOU do about it? More importantly, what will our elected Aduns and MPs do about this?