Young Australian mounts campaign against Lynas — in Malay

Posted on May 26, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Malaysian Insider-
By Debra Chong
May 26, 2011

The Lynas plant in Gebeng is facing mounting opposition from residents and environmentalists. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — Australian Ryan Albrey has sparked a buzz across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in his singlehanded fight to stop giant miner Lynas Corp from firing up its RM700 million rare earths plant in Malaysia.

The single, white, male from Perth has been trending upwards in cyberspace chatter since Sunday when he posted a five-minute video on his Facebook page proclaiming his solidarity with Malaysians against the Australian rare earths producer.

“Apa khabar rakyat Malaysia dan rakan-rakan seperjuang. Di belakang saya bandar Perth, ibu kota Australia Barat. Lebih kurang 900km arah itu adalah Bukit Welds, iaitu sebuah lombong dimiliki syarikat Lynas dan syarikat itu yang saya nak cakap pasal malam ini,” the 29-year-old said in the video featuring subtitles in English.

In “Mamat Mat Salleh yang benci Lynas sebab dia sayang Malaysia” [“White guy who hates Lynas because he loves Malaysia”], Albrey shares his views on the radioactive dangers of the refinery being built in Gebeng, drawing parallels with the Japanese-owned Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant in Ipoh two decades earlier.

His views are not new, having been highlighted repeatedly since US daily New York Times ran a report on Lynas’ plans for Gebeng three months ago.

But his smooth delivery in Bahasa Malaysia has provoked much debate, earning Albrey both praise and aspersions — sometimes in the same breath — from Malaysians online.

On Facebook, a reader who called himself Afiq Abd Rahman congratulated Albrey, saying “hebat! all the previous issues pon dye taw [Superb! He even knows all the previous issues].

On Twitter, Umno’s Youth media movement called the Murdoch University graduate’s pro-environmental comments “positive” in the face of growing controversy over the Lynas issue, but criticised Albrey for adopting what it described to be a “political tone”.

“Only Ryan’s error was when he voiced it in a political tone. So his statement in the video is unchanged like Fuziah Reactor, Anwar Ibrahim or any opposition leader who has tried to turn the Lynas thorium project in Kuantan, Pahang into a political issue, seeing as how they are bereft of issues to attack the government lately,” it posted under the name unitmediabaru.

It noted that Albrey, who is now working as a digital designer in Australia, had worked in Malaysia from 2006 to 2008.

The man himself admitted as much in his online resume, listing 18 months’ experience as a 3D animator in Kuala Lumpur, working on a children’s animated series “Alamaya” that aired on TV2 in 2007.

“What’s certain is Ryan has become a political puppet for PRiot that can be interpreted based on several matters in his Facebook site,” the Umno group said, in a veiled reference to political foe Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

The video has since gone viral, been picked up by other Facebook users and posted on various blogs, linked to their Twitter accounts and spawned copies under different titles on popular video-sharing website YouTube.

The comments continue to be replicated across the social networks, drawing astonishment from Albrey himself who remarked, “This is getting a bit crazy. I am going to be trending on twitter soon. (by the way its #matsallehnakcakap in case you want to send out a tweet or 2).”

Environmental activist Azlan Adnan, who has been in contact with Albrey, told The Malaysian Insider today the young lobbyist will be posting two more videos on Lynas soon — one in Malay to correct some factual errors in the current clip — and the other in English.

Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh and Save Malaysia chief Vincent Jiam, both who have been actively lobbying against Lynas, were ignorant of Albrey’s efforts and rising popularity when contacted by The Malaysian Insider.

Despite a government review, Lynas is facing mounting opposition from residents and environmentalists who fear a repeat of the radiation pollution from the ARE plant, linked to birth defects and at least eight cases of leukaemia in the past five years, seven of which were fatal.

Nearly 20 years after it was shuttered, the plant is still the subject of a massive RM300 million cleanup exercise.

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