“Not only is he making an about-turn, but he is continuing to posture meaninglessly. He has a public office, a mandate from the people and is accountable to the people in the next election, so if he has any moral fibre in him, he should quit the government in protest.”
- MCA vice-president Ti Lian Ker
COMMENT | Bentong MP Wong Tack (above) asking the MACC to investigate individuals in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) office for the Lynas FAQ it distributed is an unproductive attempt to change the narrative. So are his comments implying that there are individuals in the PMO who are on the take - “his officers relegated to become the mouthpiece of Lynas”.
Seriously, claiming that the prime minister would not have allowed the PMO to be compromised is laying it on a bit thick, considering the kleptocratic roots of mainstream Malaysian politics.
Besides, by green lighting the Lynas deal, the government has effectively become the mouthpiece of Lynas, or at the very least will do everything in its power to convince the rakyat that what it did was good for the country.
The politics of Lynas, which consisted of appeals to emotion, has now turned into something else. Before the election, the anti-Lynas activists had political support, but now they are bereft of such support. Politicians who, before the election, threw their weight behind the cause, are now in positions of power. They are embroiled in their quest to maintain power, and they have other avenues – Lynas is a potential moneymaker after all – that they can pursue, instead of relying on single-issue causes.
As it is, the Lynas deal is mired in all sorts of quid pro quo, hence any attempt to paint certain individuals in the government as complicit in this deal is problematic because, collectively, Harapan has turned its back on the Lynas issue, moving on to other issues.
What Wong Tack and his allies should be doing is responding to this FAQ and arguing their position on a scientific and rational basis, instead of demanding that a state agency investigates people from the PMO. If the people in the PMO are acting as mouthpieces for Lynas, it is because Harapan has made it clear that Lynas is here to stay, at least for a while.
So, of course, the PMO and other interested parties are going to spin the deal that the government made, especially when the pre-election rhetoric tarred Lyanas as something which was a danger to Malaysians. What else would you expect the government to do in this situation, especially since this particular backtrack not only jeopardizes environmental activism, but also the government's commitment to the environment?
Now, if Wong Tack had evidence that there were individuals in Harapan or in the government who were on the Lynas payroll, he should make his allegations public or make a complaint to the MACC, instead of asking the MACC to investigate the PMO's office as some sort of publicity stunt.
I would have thought that when this FAQ was put out, the anti-Lynas camp would have responded to it, point by point. This is the problem. Before the 14th general election, the then Harapan opposition appealed to emotions when it came to the Lynas issue. Everything the BN government did become an existential threat to Malaysia. Nobody argued about the science of Lynas because Harapan supporters were told the BN regime was complicit in the possible deaths that could occur because of Lynas.
Harapan politicians claimed Lynas was an environmental issue, and the BN regime had no problem destroying the environment for profit. Now, of course, the profit motive does not seem so bad. Heck, Lynas has defenders within the government, including the prime minister of Malaysia. Hence, Wong Tack claiming that the PM would not want to sully his office is even more bizarre.
All that is left is the science of it. But where does the science stand? Harapan is now making the argument that Lynas is no longer the existential threat it was. Suddenly Lynas is safe. Or, like I said in another piece, maybe Lynas was safe all along.
If Lynas is the threat the anti-Lynas crowd claims it is, then what we have is the Harapan regime doing the exact same thing as the previous BN regime. If the BN regime was culpable in the possible deaths due to Lynas, then so is the Harapan regime. This is what happens when your arguments are based on an appeal to emotion.
Getting back to the FAQ. Instead of claiming some sort of conspiracy within the PMO, what the anti-Lynas activists should be doing is countering the propaganda of the government.
The fact that Wong Tack is part of the ruling coalition makes it all the more difficult. Is Wong Tack claiming that the Harapan government is lying to the Malaysian public? Is Wong Tack claiming that the Harapan government is choosing profit over the safety of the people who are affected by the Lynas move?
The fact that, so far, Wong Tack’s strategy seems to be to point to conspiracies, instead of making his case with science, is troubling. If Lynas is a threat to Malaysian lives, as anti-Lynas activists claimed before the election, and that the government was profiting from the disposal of hazardous waste in this country, these same activists should make their case based on rational argument instead of continuing to rely on pleas to emotion.
With Harapan’s backtracking of the Lynas issue and the near-total silence from those who claimed that shutting down Lynas would save Malaysia, Wong Tack and his comrades are on their own.
At least now we know that either Malaysia never needed to be saved from Lynas or maybe, like the previous BN regime, Harapan does not really care about the environmental impact of Lynas.
Wong Tack is in the unenviable position of having to make the case for the latter.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.
(1) Pakatan con-ed voters on Lynas.
Jepun perlu rare earth Lynas lah