Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Papan, Perak on Saturday, Dec. 8, 1984 when visiting the people of Papan on the radioactive waste dump
DAP pledges full support to the people of Papan in their righteous struggle to remove the radioactive waste dump and calls on the Prime Minister to respect the views of the people of Papan on the matter
In July this year, the people of Papan and surrounding areas organised one of the biggest demonstrations in Malaysian history to protest against the siting of the radioactive waste dump in Papan as it is detrimental to the health and life od the residents and future generations.
At that time, the people of Papan and those who supported their cause were branded as trouble-makers who wanted to create sensitive issues out of matters which should be no issue.
National and State leaders who know very little about radioactivity make great speeches about now safe is the radioactive waste dump and the trenohes being built there.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, said on 5th June 1984 that ‘the Government has taken every precaution necessary and the people who are conversant with the problem think it is not dangerous’.
On 20th June 1984, the Peraks State Secretary, Mohamed Nurzid Mohamed Wali, said that the radiowaste dump in Papan would pose no danger to humans or the environment. He said the construction of the dump strictly followed 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, in Parliament, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Khalil Yakob, said 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 leaders, it is unthinkable that ordinary people like the Papan residents could be right that the trenches and the dump site is 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 people like the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and State officials who are wrong, as both the experts of the Government and the Papan Support Group agree that the trenches were sub-standard and dangerous to the people and the environment.
If not for the brave and maligned demonstration of the people of Papan, the radioactive waste dump in Papan would have started operation and the sub-standard trenches used to store thorium hydroxide and subjecting the people of Papan and the surrounding areas to unthinkable dangers lasting generations!
With this back ground where the government had been proved wrong and the people of Papan right, it is most deplorable that the Government had again disregarded the need to consult the views of the people of Papan in taking a new decision based on the Government experts’ reports on the Papan radioactive waste dump site.
This new government decision is deplorable for the following reasons:
Firstly, even the two government expert reports raised doubts about the suitability of the side in Papan.
Thus, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report is 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) report is of the view that radical alternatives to storing thoria waste at Papan ‘deserves attention’.
The biggest flaw of both government experts’ reports is that both groups of experts were not asked to study as to whether the Papan site is the most suitable one.
The finding of the Perak State Government’s technical committee appointed to examine the radioactive waste dump in Papan released last week that the site posed no danger to people and environment is of completely no value whatsoever.
This is because the various departments represented on the technical committee, geological survey department, department of environment, state public works department, Perak State Water Department, and the Ministry of Health and the Nuclear Energy Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, had earlier recommended that the Papan site is suitable, and nobody would imagine that they would now come out with a contradictory report proving their earlier work as utterly incompetent and irresponsible. The technical committee report is merely a ‘white-wash’ operation.
Secondly, the Government had ignored the reports by the experts brought in by the Papan Action Group, namely Dr. William Cannell and Dr. Edward Radford. In fact, both the government’s experts and the Papan Action Group’s experts agree that the Papan dump site and the specifications for new trenches would be inadequate if permanent disposal of thoria waste was the intention, and from all expert views, the thoria waste is likely to be dumped permanently at the site.
That the Cabinet had not given serious study to the various reports by the experts could be seen from the fact that on 27th Nov., the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Stephen Yong, told Parliament during the debate on his Ministry estimates for 1985, where several MPs spoke about Papan including DAP MP for Sungai Besi, Chan Kok Kit and DAP MP for Kuching, Sim Kwang Yang, that the views of the experts and MPs would be given serious consideration before a final decision is made. He also said that the experts’ reports had just been received.
But the very next day on 28th Nov., the Cabinet took a final decision that the radioactive waste dump in Papan remains. Clearly, even Datuk Stephen Yong did not know that the Cabinet would be making a final decision on Papan waste dump the next day, for he would otherwise be guilty of misleading the House.
If the Government honours the recommendations of the government’s experts, which suggested the need for ‘public consultation’, the government should have made public the reports of all the experts and welcome public reactions and feedbacks. Unfortunately, the government appears to be more interested only in going through the motion of having consulted experts, rather than in giving serious weight to the experts’ views.
The DAP calls on the Prime Minister not to be stubborn, and not to regard it as a loss of face to respect the views of the people of Papan Experts especially those who are engaged by the government have always been proved wrong. In India, more than 2,000 people were killed and 50,000 injured because of the escape of poison gas from a Union Carbide factory. We do not want such disasters to take place in Malaysia.
I understand that the entire populace of Papan will be holding one day fast and stoppage of business tomorrow to protest against the Cabinet decision to adhere to the decision to have the dump site in Papan.
The DAP pledges full support to the people of Papan and surrounding areas in their righteous struggle to get the radioactive waste dump site removed, and I call on the Prime Minister to respect the views of the people of Papan and freeze all action on the Cabinet decision on the dump. I will not be able to be with you tomorrow as I have to be in Penang, but the DAP MP for Kepong and Director of Political bureau, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, and Perak DAP leaders will be in Papan to demonstrate the DAP’s support.