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Friday, March 30, 2012

Son of Bt Merah worker dies: How many lives must be lost before Putrajaya gets it - Fuziah


Son of Bt Merah worker dies: How many lives must be lost before Putrajaya gets it - Fuziah
Beleaguered Prime Minister Najib Razak's pet Lynas project suffered a new blow when Cheah Kok Leong, the son of a worker at the by-now defunct Asian Rare Earth plant in Bukit Merah, Perak, passed away on Thursday night.
"How many more lives must we lose before Putrajaya learns its lesson? My heartfelt condolences to Kok Leong's family. I will do my best to stop Lynas so that not even one family in Kuantan will have to go through the same kind of suffering as his mother Lai Kwan has in Bukit Merah,"  PKR vice president Fuziah Salleh told Malaysia Chronicle.
She plans to visit the family on Saturday.
The 29-year-old Kok Leong had died at the Ipoh Hospital from a serious bacterial infection. According to his family, he had been suffering from fever and cold for two days before they admitted him.
“We tried to calm him down and told him not to be afraid, and let the doctor examine him. He then held my hand and leaned on my shoulder,” his sister Lai Sun was reported as saying. “When he died, his arms and legs turned black and blue.”
Forcing Lynas on the people
While the Malaysian regulator Atomic Energy Licensing Board and Najib claim that Lynas and Bukit Merah are two completely different risks, few Malaysians especially Kuantan residents are convinced. Kok Leong's death is unlikely to reassure them either.
Last month, in a shock show of force, more than 20,000 Malaysians from across the nation went to Kuantan to protest the Lynas refinery. The Himpunan Hijau 2.0 rally was spearheaded by PKR MP for Kuantan Fuziah Salleh, environmental groups and Kuantan residents.
But despite the clear signal from the people, Najib seems determined to push the project through. Lynas itself has told the foreign press that the time line for the Gebeng plant to begin operations was still intact.
But Malaysian still want an explanation as to why their country should accept such a project when Australia - a continent many folds larger - had totally rejected it.
USD100mil and yet not enough to buy back lost lives and health
In the Bukit Merah case, where Mitsubishi had to spend more than US$100million de-toxify the area, Kok Leong's mother had worked a s bricklayer at the ARE plant. Now 69, Lai Kwan had quit when she heard that her employer was producing radioactive waste.
Lai Kwan has previously told the NYT that while pregnant she was asked by ARE to take unpaid days off when particularly dangerous consignments of ore were arriving.
Kok Leong was underweight at birth and frequently suffered from asthma. He was also afflicted with Down's syndrome, cataracts and had a hole in his heart.
“She has spent the last 29 years washing, dressing, feeding and otherwise taking care of her son from that pregnancy... she and other local residents blame the refinery for the problems, although birth defects can have many causes,” the NYT reported.
Malaysia Chronicle

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