Friday, December 9, 2011

Vale jetty can threaten security, says NGO | Free Malaysia Today

Vale jetty can threaten security, says NGO

Teoh El Sen | December 9, 2011-FMT

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens Perak urges the state to review all agreements with the Brazilian company.

PETALING JAYA: A group claiming to speak for Perak citizens has urged the state government to correct what it calls the “huge mistake” of giving a foreign company full rights to build and operate an enormous jetty in Teluk Rubiah.

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens Perak (GRPP) said the state must review all the agreements it had made with the Brazilian company Vale International, which is building, apart from the jetty, a plant to process iron ore on a 450-acre site in the coastal town of Teluk Rubiah.

GRPP chairman Zainal Abidin said the jetty should be considered a national asset.

“National assets should be under the administration of the government and cannot be sold to any parties, especially foreign companies,” he said.

“The government cannot and should not allow an asset of such magnitude and importance to be fully controlled by foreigners, especially on the Lumut coast, where Malaysia’s naval base is situated.

“Don’t allow us to be colonised by them and mortgage the country’s wealth just because the company is investing billions in Perak.”

According to Zainal, GRPP has a membership of more than 400 professionals in various fields. He said the group was not against investments and economic growth, but was concerned about the security of the country.

Zainal also urged the state to restudy how the Vale plant would affect the environment and the livelihoods of local residents.

“Will those big ships that are coming in affect the fishermen? The government can’t just ignore that.”

Vale is the world’s largest iron mining and processing company. It has a locally registered company called Vale Malaysia Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, which started constructing the Teluk Rubiah plant last July.

Ecosystem to suffer

The plant is expected to be operational by June 2014. It will process blended iron ore and pellets used in steel production for distribution to customers in Malaysia, Australia, China, Japan and other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

The jetty will be the destination point for Vale ships of 400,000-deadweight tonnes carrying iron ore from Brazil.

Vale is investing RM4 billion in the first phase of the project, during which the plant will be capable of handling 60 million tonnes of iron ore a year. The state government has said that Vale’s investment would eventually come to between RM9 billion and RM14 billion.

In interviews that FMT conducted last August, many local residents, mostly fishermen, expressed fears for their health and livelihood.

Consumer and environmental groups have consistently voiced opposition against the project. They say the Vale plant and its activities would destabilise the ecosystem of the area, formerly gazetted as a forest reserve.

Concerns have also been raised that the local tourism industry would take a blow from which it might not recover.

Former menteri besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin claims that the state government under Zambry Abdul Kadir has sacrificed public interest for the material benefit of a select few.

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