by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit SIang, in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 12.12.1984:
DAP calls on the Cabinet to convene another meeting on the Papan radioactive waste dump issue in view of the Bhopal disaster in India where over 2,000 died and over 50,000 injured as a result of escape of poison gas
The Bhopal disaster in India, where over 2,000 died and over 50,000 were injured as a result of the escape of poison gas from the Union Carbide factory throws a new dimension on the Papan radioactive waste dump issue as it highlights the human costs that would be involved in the event of mistakes by government officials and even experts on such matters.
The government officials and experts had already been proved wrong once already in the Papan radioactive waste dump issue, and there is no guarantee that they would not be proved wrong a second time.
When the people of Papan and surrounding areas organised one of the biggest demonstrations in Malaysian history in July this year to protest against the siting of the radioactive waste dump in Papan, the residents of Papan and their supporters, including political parties, environmental organisations, were condemned by the Government as ‘trouble makers’.
At that time, national and state leaders who know very little about radioactivity made great speeches or issued statements declaring now safe was the radioactive waste dump and the trenches being built in Papan.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, said on 5th June 1984 that ‘the Government has taken every precaution necessary and the people who are conservant with the problem think it is not dangerous.’
On 20th June 1984, the Perak State Secretary, Mohamed Nurzid Mohamed Wali, said that the radioactive waste dump in Papan would pose no danger to humans or the environment. He said the construction of the dump strictly followed the safety measures and specifications stipulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
On 28th June 1984, the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Amar Stephen Yong, declared that the radioactive waste dump is safe and pose minimal hazards to human life and the environment.
On 30th July 1984, the Minister in Prime Minister’s Department said in Parliament that based on the requirements recommended by the International Atomic Power Agency, Papan was the most suitable site from among the sites proposed by the Perak Government.
With such high-powered statements by important national and state leader, it is unthinkable that the ordinary people like the Papan residents could be right that the trenches and the dump site are dangerous and a hazard to health and life.
But as events have proved, it is the people of Papan who are right and the great important people like the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and State Government Officials who are wrong, as both experts of the Government and the Papan Action Group agree that the trenches are sub-standard and dangerous to the people and the environment.
It is deplorable that the government has become so arrogant that it did not seek to consult the Papan people on the findings of the various expert groups before making a decision that the radioactive waste dump should remain in Papan.
The Government experts were never asked to consider the suitability of the Papan site, although the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report was of the view that ‘the site does not appear to be the best for the proposed facility while the NRPB (British National Radiological Protection Board) is of the view that racial alternatives to storing thoria waste at Papan ‘deserves attention’.
The experts of the Papan Action Group are stongly of the view that the Papan dump site is unsuitable. Even the government experts agree that the dump site is unsuitable for it is being used as a permanent storage, and from all expert views, the thoria waste is likely to be dumped in Papan permanently.
The Perak State Government has announced after the release of the experts’ reports had also come to the conclusion that the radioactive waste dump in Papan posed no danger to people and the environment.
This report of the Perak State Government’s technical committee is absolutely of no value. This is because the various departments represented on the technical committee, namely geological survey department, department of environment, state public works department, Perak State Water Department, the Ministry of Health and the nuclear energy unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, had earlier recommended that the Papan site as suitable. Could anyone possibly expect these same departments to declare that their earlier findings were wrong, which would in fact justify all the departmental heads or representatives concerned to be sacked from the government service for their incompetence?
The DAP calls on the Cabinet to convene another meeting on the Papan radioactive waste dump issue, and in view of the Bhopal disaster in India, highlighting what great human costs that would be paid by the ordinary people in the event of mistakes of experts and government officials, abandon the Papan radioactive waste dump project.