By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani (The Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin said today that the government is being selective and reluctant in evacuation its citizens in tsunami-hit Japan.
Shamsul questioned why Malaysians are still in Japan after reports of radiation leaks and explosions at the nuclear plants in the country.
“PKR Youth is also questioning the government’s selective attitude in dealing with this issue compared to Ops Pyramid to bring back Malaysian students in Egypt before this.
“Is the government trying to say that the nuclear catastrophe is not serious compared with the political tsunami in the Middle East, especially Egypt,” he said in a press statement.
Last month, the government flew back about 9,000 Malaysians from Egypt during the country’s political upheaval.
He added that the government must be proactive in ensure the safety of Malaysian in Japan and demonstrate its commitment to its slogan of “people first, performance now.”
Friday’s massive tsunami was the result of an 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Miyagi prefecture.
The tsunami has so far claimed 1,300 lives but Japanese officials are expecting the death toll to rise to at least 10,000 despite ongoing rescue efforts.
Hundred of thousands have also been made homeless.
Authorities are now concerned about radiation leaking from two nuclear reactors in Fukushima, which are said to be close to meltdown.
Shamsul also called on the government to reconsider the rare earth refinery in Kuantan.
“PKR Youth urge the government to recognize the long-term impact of radioactive radiation and learn from the lessons in Japan to not proceed with the proposal to create rare earth refinery in Gebeng, Kuantan,” he added.
Australian mining company Lynas Corporation has begun construction of the rare earth refinery in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s home state, raising fears of a repeat of the radiation pollution in Bukit Merah, Perak that has been linked to at least eight leukemia cases in the local community there.
The Asian Rare Earth plant is now the subject of a quiet US$100 million (RM303 million) cleanup exercise by Mitsubishi Chemical which shut down the facility nearly two decades ago.
The New York Times reported last week that the refinery in Gebeng, just 70km north of Najib’s Pekan constituency, will be the first such plant outside China in nearly three decades.
Environmental hazards have made other countries wary of rare earth processing, leaving China to control 95 per cent of global supply of rare earth metals.
The metals are crucial to high technology products such as the Apple iPhone, Toyota Prius and Boeing’s smart bombs.
The newspaper said that if prices of the metals stayed at current levels, the Lynas plant would generate over RM5 billion a year in exports for Malaysia, or nearly one per cent of its entire economy.
However the massive earthquake in Japan and the resulting tsunami has also added fears about the plant in Malaysia’s east coast which faces the Pacific Rim’s ring of fire, the world’s active volcanic region. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan and the 10-metre high tsunami it sent surging into cities and villages, sweeping away everything in its path.