Lynas Corporation must be wondering what it did to merit its opposition. This Australian producer of rare earths minerals has been building its advanced material processing facility in Kuantan, Malaysia in an environment of political narcissism where the propagation of disinformation disguised as ‘due process’ gains undeserved momentum.
The politicization of its efforts is well-documented in the media, nonetheless in the midst of this shemozzle, Lynas continues, without fanfare, to bring increasing and significant value to the local community, a community that ought to and can grow with Lynas, not in spite of it.
Quite apart from the 250 plus direct employees and the estimated 1000 indirect jobs created by Lynas, in 2010, it introduced the Lynas Balok Ivory Tower program.
The aim of the program is to assist local Kuantan students from poor and underprivileged backgrounds to gain the necessary academic skills to achieve placements at local universities.
The program operates under the patronage of his Royal Highness the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Haji Ahmad Shad and is managed by the National University of Malaysia.
This program required significant commitment from Lynas staff. It provides students with extra offline tuition and mentoring opportunities that will prepare them for tertiary education and later, for their careers.
Graduates of the Balok Ivory Tower program are also able to extend the benefits and opportunities resulting from their participation to achieve superior life outcomes for themselves, their families and therefore also the local community.
Lynas managers give freely of their own time to “foster” the students and their families, to help improve their lives.
This involves countless hours of mentoring on weekends and week nights with students and their families, to complement and enhance the education received by students.
Lynas managers encourage parental participation and inclusion as they believe it is integral to successful outcomes for student participants.
The Lynas staffs’ contribution was not initiated as a call of duty or “job requirement” but more a willingness to do something for the people on behalf of a community-minded company.
They saw it as the type of valued contribution a new advanced technology partner could bring to a community.
Far from finding it a burden, the Lynas managers were rewarded with a wonderful experience of support and encouragement borne from helping disadvantaged children to gain a feeling of greater self-worth and accomplishment.
Lynas was pleased to announce in December 2011 that the first phase of the Balok Ivory Tower Academic Program was completed with 67 students successfully achieving the minimum requirement to gain placement at a local University or College.
The anti-Lynas people would have you believe that Lynas is not engaging with the local community but this program, as well as the locally initiated communication forums that have involved over 12,000 local residents, tell a different story.
Lynas has continued to jump through hoops, none of which they created or deserved. They were criticized for poor communication – perhaps with some merit in the early stages of their presence in Kuantan – but now they have addressed and engaged the community with project information and provide a level of real community support, which cannot be denied.
Lynas is not even operating and is already contributing remarkably in practical ways to the local community, yet it is opposed by local politicians, small on reasonable argument but big on fear propaganda.
Lynas has gone to great lengths, expending money, time and technical ability to ensure the safe operation of its plant. It is exactly the type of business needed in a modern Malaysia.
These questions should be asked of the anti-Lynas people: “What is your problem? Why are you continuing to oppose a company which clearly offers such benefits to the community and country?”