New Book on Critical Care

critical care, alex delikan.

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Course on Social Responsibility for Medical Students

Elective module for students in the International Medical University  “Radiation: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”

 

An MPSR initiative to encourage social responsibility among youth

During 27 Jan – 13 Feb., 2015, MPSR conducted an elective module for fifty three (53) medical, dental and pharmacy students at IMU.

The course was designed and taught by MPSR members, led by Dr. R.S McCoy, with input and participation from Drs. Thong Kok Wai, M. Thuraiappah, Indra Pathmanathan (module coordinator) and Michael Samy, and friends of MPSR, namely Drs. K Arichandran, Chan Chee Khoon and Francis Lopez.

It consisted of 6 lecture discussion sessions, a student led exhibition, a student debate, and included an end of module student assessment based on a written essay and individual or group performances during the exhibition and debate. The marks from the assessment were submitted to IMU. The topics included in the module were

  • Radiation Science: the basics

  • Radiation and the Human Body

  • The Nuclear Industry

  • Rare earth mineral mining

  • Nuclear war

  • Mobilizing community support on social issues

  • The exhibition was: Prevention of nonnuclear war and unintended exposure to radiation

  • The debate was” Nuclear energy is not an option for Malaysia

  • The Essay topic was: The human and environmental impact of nuclear accidents.

The students were enthusiastic and innovative, and several of them appeared to be genuinely motivated to carry forward the key messages that the module aimed to inculcate.

We  hope the experience gained in this activity will enable MPSR to replicate the activity in other institutions of higher learning so as to encourage the concept of shouldering social responsibility among Malaysian students.

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Nayarit Report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This report contains detailed information about what happened at the recently concluded conference in Nayarit, an evaluation from IPPNW’s perspective, and recommendations for concrete actions by IPPNW affiliates for the remainder of this year.

 

Please read this carefully, and share it widely. We will be communicating with you regularly from now on about the important opportunities for engagement with ICAN, with your Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, and with your governments in the run-up to the next conference in Vienna later this year.

 

—John Loretz, Program Director

 

 

 

The Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held in Nayarit, Mexico on February 13-14, was a huge success. Despite the boycott by most of the nuclear-armed States (India and Pakistan, to their credit, sent delegations), 146 countries registered for Nayarit, and were fully engaged with the program from beginning to end.

 

ICAN held a two-day campaigners meeting in Nayarit on February 11-12 for more than 100 civil society delegates to the conference. Campaigners shared perspectives on how the nuclear weapons issue presents itself in different countries and political environments, and what strategies for pursuing a ban might be most effective. We’ll be sharing a lot more about this in the weeks and months ahead.

 

Nayarit in a Nutshell

 

I hope you all have had an opportunity to read the reports that have been sent out from ICAN and from Reaching Critical Will, as well as the posts to IPPNW’s Peace and Health blog during the conference. As the conference chair, Mexican Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade Kuribreña said in his closing remarks, Nayarit was “a point of no return” on the road to a world without nuclear weapons.

 

For the complete record of what happened in Nayarit, you can find most of the presentations, many of the statements made by governments and civil society, and the Chair’s summary on the conference website.

 

ICAN has a number of news articles about the conference and civil society participation, including a link to a great new ICAN video that makes the humanitarian case for the ban treaty and that was premiered in Nayarit, and an op-ed from Desmond Tutu.

 

ICAN had several opportunities to speak from the floor, including a final statement during the closing session.

 

Reaching Critical Will has prepared an excellent summary, along with an analysis of the discussions among State participants and an overview of the challenges we’ll be facing between now and the follow-up conference in Vienna.

 

The big news coming out of Nayarit, of course, was the announcement by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz that Austria will host the Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons later this year, with the intent of exploring what States and civil society can do to address the evidence about the dangers of nuclear weapons that was presented in Oslo and Nayarit.

 

 

IPPNW’s Impact on Nayarit

 

IPPNW played a key role in both the conference and the civil society delegation. We helped shape the agenda for the conference at the invitation of the Mexican government, we were able to place a number of speakers on the program, and nearly every presentation bore our imprint in one way or another. Several of us were on the civil society delegation: Co-presidents Tilman Ruff, Ira Helfand, and Bob Mtonga; Board Chair Lars Pohlmeier; Jans Fromow and Ruby Chirino of the Mexican affiliate; former Co-President Ron McCoy of Malaysia; Alexandra Arce and Carlos Umana of the Costa Rican affiliate; Xanthe Hall of IPPNW-Germany; Josefin Lind of SLMK; Gyaneshwor Rai of PSR-Nepal, and Program Director John Loretz. (Regional Vice President Masao Tomonaga was there in his capacity as head of the Japanese Red Cross Hospital in Nagasaki; Maral Hassanshahi, a member of PSR-Iran, participated as a member of the Ban All Nukes Generation [BANg] youth delegation.)

 

There was hardly a moment when IPPNW’s most important messages about the catastrophic medical, environmental, and humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons were not being echoed from the stage. Hibakusha from Hiroshima and Nagasaki offered moving testimonies about the effects of the detonations that killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people. A delegate from the Marshall Islands, spoke movingly from the floor about the long-term health effects of nuclear testing on indigenous communities. An expert from Mexico’s civil defense agency presented a classic IPPNW “bombing run,” describing the devastation a nuclear explosion would inflict upon Mexico City.

 

Dr. Zhanat Carr from the World Health Organization’s radiological unit reviewed the WHO’s long-standing engagement with the nuclear weapons issue and its conclusion that “primary prevention” is the only approach to treating the health consequences of nuclear war. ICRC vice-president Christine Beerli, who spoke at IPPNW’s World Congress in Basel in 2010, reiterated the Red Cross position that there could be no meaningful medical response to the use of nuclear weapons, and that outlawing and eliminating them is the only responsible option.

 

(As a side note, 20 Red Cross Red Crescent national societies from every part of the world met for two days in Nayarit to plan the next steps in implementing the nuclear weapons action plan adopted in Hiroshima in May 2013. Ira was invited to discuss nuclear famine, and pledged IPPNW’s support in helping the Red Cross Red Crescent implement the four-year action plan that was adopted last year in Hiroshima.)

 

IPPNW had a major presence at the conference podium. Regional vice-president Masao Tomonaga, who is the head of the Japanese Red Cross Hospital in Nagasaki, described what would happen if a modern nuclear weapon were used against Hiroshima today. Excerpts from his talk are on IPPNW’s YouTube channel.

 

Rutger’s professor Alan Robock, IPPNW’s principal science advisor on the climate effects of nuclear war, presented compelling new data on the severe and long-lasting declines in Chinese grain production that would result from the use of even a fraction of existing nuclear arsenals in a regional conflict. He was followed in the next panel by Ira Helfand, who held the participants spellbound as he explained the implications of Alan’s findings for the two billion or more people who would face starvation from nuclear famine, and went on to describe the consequences of a major nuclear war between the US and Russia—something that Bruce Blair of Global Zero would later warn could not be ruled out as long as the weapons exist. Ira’s complete presentation is also on YouTube.

 

 

What Happens Next?

 

While we heard an overwhelming desire for action to eliminate nuclear weapons in Nayarit, our work is still cut out for us to persuade States that they have the power to outlaw nuclear weapons even without the cooperation of the nuclear-armed States, and that a ban treaty would compel the US, Russia, and the others to do what they’ve been unwilling to do under the NPT. Mexican foreign minister Meade threw down the challenge. What happens next is up to us.

 

Building on the success of Nayarit and ensuring that the Vienna conference marks the beginning of a political process to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons is going to take the full engagement IPPNW and all of its affiliates and student groups. As the founder and lead medical NGO in ICAN, we need to participate fully in the campaign events and activities that will be organized over the next several months. IPPNW’s medical message is at the center of ICAN’s strategy for a humanitarian-based ban treaty, and we must keep this message at the front of our communications with governments, the public, and the media between now and Vienna. The following activities are high priorities for IPPNW and its affiliates for the rest of this year. We’ll be following up with more details about all of them at appropriate times, and doing everything we can to help affiliates engage in as much of this work as possible.

 

1) Get connected/stay connected with ICAN—IPPNW gave ICAN its start in 2007, and the campaign has now grown to include 350 partner organizations in 90 countries. If there is an ICAN group in your country, please make sure your affiliate is actively involved, and that IPPNW’s medical message is presented at ICAN-sponsored events and meetings with government officials. If you are an IPPNW activist, you need to be an ICAN campaigner!

 

2) Get your government to commit to Vienna—While the dates for the conference in Vienna have not yet been set, we expect it to happen later this year. It’s not too soon to start promoting the next conference as a transition point between knowledge and action. If your government sent a delegation to Oslo and/or Nayarit, it needs to commit to Vienna as well. More important, it needs to start developing concrete proposals about a process to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons, and to share those proposals with like-minded States. IPPNW and ICAN are urging that States come together around a process for a ban treaty. Familiarize yourself with the arguments for a ban and look for opportunities to discuss them with decision makers in your country.

 

3) Present the nuclear famine findings—The newest and, in some ways, the most powerful new evidence we have about the destructive nature of nuclear weapons comes from the work of climate scientists such as Alan Robock. Ira Helfand has studied the implications of these scientific findings for food security, nutrition, and global health, and has produced a report that we need to place in the hands of as many people as possible. You will find a nuclear famine Powerpoint presentation, in both English and Spanish, on IPPNW’s website. This is a very user-friendly presentation, and we encourage you to download it and use it.

 

4) Partner with your national Red Cross Red Crescent society—As mentioned above, the Red Cross Red Crescent has a new four-year action plan on nuclear weapons. Some RC societies, especially those who were in Nayarit, have made a firm commitment to implement this plan, and there are ways IPPNW affiliates can support RC activities. We’ll come back to you with more concrete suggestions in the near future.

 

5) Reach out to local Rotary clubs—Ira has been laying some great groundwork for collaboration with Rotary, which is renewing its interest in the nuclear issue. Several affiliates have already answered Ira’s call to form a pool of IPPNW speakers who can give presentations about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war at local Rotary Clubs. Getting Rotary to partner with ICAN and/or to send a delegation to the Vienna conference would be a big accomplishment.

 

6) Support a new World Medical Association resolution on nuclear weapons—A new resolution will be brought to the WMA General Assembly in Durban in October. Contacting national WMA member organizations and urging them to support the resolution can help reaffirm the WMA’s commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons in the weeks leading up to the Vienna conference. We’ll provide more information when we have a final draft of the text and know more about the process by which it will be considered.

 

7) Come to Astana with an ICAN action plan—IPPNW’s World Congress will take place a few months before the Vienna conference. We encourage all of you to come to Astana ready to report to the International Council on actions you’ve already taken and on your plans for keeping the momentum going into (and beyond) Vienna.

 

Text Box: The IPPNW team in NayaritThis is already a lot to digest, and it’s only the beginning. We’ll have more to say about all of these activities in the coming months. But as I’ve said, what happens next is up to us—all of us.

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Fukushima Three Years On

The Fukushima nuclear disaster three years on

March 11, 2014

by Tilman Ruff

Fukushima-Daiichi Unit 3 reactor in July 2013

Fukushima-Daiichi Unit 3 reactor in July 2013

The world’s most complex nuclear power plant disaster continues three years on, and will continue for many years hence. Uncontrolled flows of around 1,000 tons of groundwater per day into the site continue; 400 tons of water daily flows into the damaged reactor and turbine buildings where it becomes radioactively contaminated. Some is collected—more than 430,000 tons of radioactively contaminated water is now stored in about 1,000 makeshift tanks, many of which are bolted rather than welded, lack even gauges to show how full they are, and have leaked repeatedly. In one incident last month, two valves left open by mistake and one which malfunctioned led to a leak of 100 tons of water containing 230 million Bq/L of beta emitters, mostly strontium-90, 3.8 million times the maximum allowed in drinking water. Radioactivity is leaking through multiple pathways into the soil and inevitably into the ocean. During Typhoon Wipha on 16 October 2013, the 26th typhoon to hit Japan last year, levees and 12 storage tanks were reported to have overflowed. A 7.3 magnitude earthquake on 25 October 2013 was centred less than 300 km from Fukushima.

Radioactivity around the site is increasing. More than 32,000 workers have now been involved in the clean-up. Relatively lightly exposed skilled workers are in increasingly short supply, and most workers on the site are poorly trained and supported day labourers employed through multiple layers of subcontracting. There is still no national radiation register for nuclear industry workers in Japan.

By mid-February 2014, 242 spent and 22 new fuel assemblies had been transferred from the damaged Unit 4 spent fuel pool above the damaged reactor 4 to a common storage pool  on the ground nearby; another 1,533 fuel assemblies are due to be transferred from Unit 4 pool by the end of this year. Decommissioning of the reactors themselves has yet to begin.

Displaced Fukushima resident. Photo by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff

Displaced Fukushima resident. Photo by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff

About 150,000 people remain displaced, many of them still not knowing if or when they may be able to return to their former homes. Mental health and substance abuse problems, family break-up, and suicides are reportedly increased, but few firm data are available. While the average weight of Japanese schoolchildren has declined slightly since 2006, reduced play and outside exercise have resulted in rising rates of obesity in children in Fukushima. In the five years before the nuclear disaster, the proportion of obese children in Fukushima was the highest of all prefectures in no more than one grade. By 2013, Fukushima had the highest rates for six out of 13 school grades, and was between 2nd and 4th for the remaining seven grades.

In November and December 2013, government agencies promulgated statements aimed to accelerate return of displaced people to their contaminated home towns. This involves a payment—for those disadvantaged, effectively a bribe—of 90,000 yen (about US$10,000) to those returning. The government is also propsosing that levels of radiation exposure be determined by individual dosimetry. While superficially this sounds a sensible way to take account of individual and locality-related variations in exposure, the effect can be expected to be adverse as it seems intended to facilitate and encourage return to areas of relatively high environmental radioactivity, and shift the responsibility for minimising radiation exposures onto individuals and away from the government and TEPCO ensuring people are supported to live in an environment without facing excessive radiation risks.

The context for this policy is continued official denial and misinformation downplaying radiation risks. Government documents still consistently misinform the public by asserting that ionising radiation exposures of less than 100mSv have not been shown to be harmful to health. Three years on, with the acute phase of the disaster declared to be over, Japanese national policy is still based on exposures of up to 20 mSv over background levels being acceptable for the whole population, including the most vulnerable to radiation health harm—children and fetuses. This is despite the fact that 5 mSv/year is used to determine eligibility for the worker’s compensation insurance program for those who develop leukemia.

A comprehensive population register of those in significantly contaminated areas and all workers at the Fukushima Daiichi site, with early evaluation of exposures and long-term (life-time) health monitoring, recommended by IPPNW three years ago, has still not been implemented, and there seems no prospect that it will be.  We also recommended that health protective and monitoring measures be applied on the basis of level of exposure to residents, irrespective of where they live. This is important because radioactive contamination extended to the neighbouring prefectures of Chiba, Gunma, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Tochigi—some areas of these provinces were contaminated to a greater degree than parts of Fukushima Prefecture. Yet disaster-related health monitoring and support is still only available for those resident in Fukushima at the time of the disaster.

The only comprehensive health monitoring being implemented is biennial ultrasound examination for Fukushima children less than 18 years old at the time of the disaster. No systematic or free comprehensive health follow-up is being undertaken, unlike the free medical examinations instituted in Tokai-mura, Ibaraki Prefecture, for residents who may have received doses higher than 1 mSv/year following a 1999 accident in a nuclear fuel fabrication plant.

The response to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster and the future of nuclear power in Japan constitute a critical historic juncture for the people and environment of Japan, with global ramifications. Japan shut down all its 54 operating nuclear power reactors, producing around a third of the country’s electricity, essentially overnight in the wake of the disaster. Despite an extraordinary lack of energy conservation and efficiency programs, given Japan’s technical sophistication, different voltages used in different parts of the country, and the lack even of a national electricity grid in such a densely populated and geographically compact country, the country has managed fine in the past three years after going “cold  turkey” on nuclear electricity. Industrial production has essentially been maintained, and there have been no electricity shortages through multiple hot summers. The increase in gas usage for electricity generation could be readily replaced and more by investments in energy efficiency and renewables. It has been proven abundantly that Japan does not need nuclear power. And the overwhelming majority of the population want nuclear phase-out.

Yet the intensely collusive and corrupt “nuclear village” involving industry, government and regulators responsible for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and its mismanagement, which placed company and bureaucratic interests and minimsation of relocation and compensation costs ahead of public safety, has battened down the hatches and is attempting to carry on business largely as usual. The new Nuclear Regulatory Agency is largely made of up of old hands, and has been spending the great majority of its time on reactor re-starts rather than the urgent priority of stabilising the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and dealing with the human and environmental toll of the disaster. The “nuclear village” is aided and abetted by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which has ditched the previous government’s commitment to nuclear phase-out, and is intent on re-starting nuclear power reactors, promoting reactor exports to all comers, and accumulating further weapons-usable separated plutonium without plausible justification.

In September 2013, PM Abe lied unashamedly in assuring the International Olympic Committee that the “situation [at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant] is under control”, and that the contaminated water is “completely contained” within a 0.3 square kilometer area. IPPNW physicians and students should ensure that we use the upcoming Tokyo Olympics to continue to focus world attention on what happens, needs to happen and is not happening in Fukushima.

Whether nuclear power will be phased out globally in the forseeable future, or continue to aggravate nuclear proliferation and the unsolved problems of radioactive waste and add to the global stockpile of ready-made potential massive radiological weapons and global radioactive disasters in-waiting depends, to a considerable extent, on what happens in Japan. The Fukushima nuclear disaster is a global health concern both because of the indiscriminate and uncontrollable spread of radioactive fallout, and the significance of what happens in Japan for the unsustainable global health danger of the massive amounts of radioactivity and fissile materials produced by nuclear power reactors.

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Re: [ASEANcats] COMANGO – Malaysia – Move to Outlaw Human Rights Groups is an Assault on Freedom

Press Release

Declaration of unlawfulness of COMANGO is highly flawed and must be revoked

 

The Malaysian Bar questions the legitimacy of the announcement by the Ministry of Home Affairs that the Coalition of Malaysian Non-Governmental Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (“COMANGO”) is unlawful.

 

Firstly, the announcement came by way of a media statement by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Home Affairs, and referred to alleged non-compliance by COMANGO with the Societies Act 1966 (“Act”).  There is no mention of any order made by the Minister of Home Affairs under section 5 of the Act declaring COMANGO unlawful.  Instead, it refers to the fact that since COMANGO is not registered under section 7 of the Act, then by virtue of section 41(1)(b) of the Act COMANGO is an unlawful society.  However, under section 3A of the Act, the powers, duties and functions “as may be necessary for the purpose of giving effect to and carrying out the provisions of this Act” lie with the Registrar of Societies.  There is no provision for the Secretary General of the Ministry of Home Affairs to make pronouncements under the Act.  There is further no provision for the delegation of power by the Minister to the Secretary General in this regard.

 

Secondly, the media statement assumes that COMANGO is a “society” within the definition of that term in the Act.  However, COMANGO in its name clearly states that it is a coalition of non-governmental organisations.  It is not settled law that coalitions need to be registered under the Act.  In fact, the argument was raised in Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan & Ors v Menteri Dalam Negeri & Ors [2012] 5 MLRH 181 that coalitions and unincorporated associations need not be registered.  It is public knowledge that the High Court in that case held that the Minister of Home Affairs’ declaration that BERSIH was an illegal organisation was “tainted with irrationality”, and quashed the declaration.

 

Thirdly, the media statement alleges that one of the aims of COMANGO is to champion rights that deviate from the religion of Islam.  When one looks at the submission made by COMANGO to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2013, a copy of which was delivered at about the same time to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, only four out of 63 recommendations deal with issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning (“LGBTIQ”) communities, sexual orientation and gender identity.  Even these four recommendations are presented in the context of ending discrimination in law and practice.  It is hard to imagine these four recommendations, which are grounded upon a call to non-discrimination of human beings, as constituting a threat to the belief and practice of Islam in Malaysia.

 

Fourthly, the media statement is mischievous in that it makes the highly prejudicial reference that most of the member organisations of COMANGO are non-Muslim-based, as though there were something wrong or illegal about that, when in fact there is not.  This is highly irregular and very irresponsible.

 

Fifthly, the media statement is in error when it states that only 15 of the 54 member organisations of COMANGO are registered under the Act.  The Ministry of Home Affairs does not appear to have access to accurate or up-to-date records, as several organisations listed as not being registered under the Act are in fact registered under the Act, including Association of Women Lawyers, Christian Federation of Malaysia, PS The Children, and Women’s Centre for Change, Penang.

 

Sixthly, the media statement again mischievously states that every society that intends to carry out activities legally in the country must be registered with the Jabatan Pendaftaran Pertubuhan Malaysia.  It conveniently omits to state that some of the member organisations of COMANGO are in fact not societies, but companies registered under the Companies Act 1965 or bodies registered under some other law regarding registration of organisations, and therefore not required to be registered under the Act.  By failing to make this point clear, the media statement perpetuates the impression that something illegal or amiss is taking place.

 

Seventhly, the media statement totally avoids mentioning that the Malaysian Government has been engaging with COMANGO since September 2008 when preparations for the 1st Universal Periodic Review of Malaysia by the United Nations Human Rights Council were being made.  The Malaysian Government has had more than five years to check on the background of COMANGO and has had no problems working with it until now.  To now declare COMANGO to be unlawful when for the past five years the Malaysian Government has had direct dealings with it smacks of mala fide.

 

Finally, by embarking on this course of action, the Malaysian Government has publicly made known that it has no intention of promoting and protecting the right to free speech or the right to freedom of assembly.  Its only standard operating procedure appears to be to ban or declare unlawful any organisation or coalition of organisations that appears to promote views that are not in consonance with that of the Malaysian Government, or whose ongoing presence is a bane to its continuance in power.

 

The Malaysian Bar calls on the Malaysian Government to immediately retract the media statement and revoke the declaration of unlawfulness, flawed as it is on so many levels.  Instead, it should welcome and constructively engage with COMANGO to adopt and implement as many of the 63 recommendations as possible.  This can only lead to a more decent, honourable and human rights-positive country that all mature and right-thinking Malaysians hope for.

 

 

Christopher Leong
President
Malaysian Bar

10 January 2014

 

COALITION OF MALAYSIAN NGOS IN THE UPR PROCESS (COMANGO)

Media Statement, 9 January 2014 

The Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (COMANGO) is shocked and perturbed that the Secretary General of the Home Ministry of Malaysia has declared COMANGO, through a media statement on 8 January 2014, an “unlawful organization” (“pertubuhan haram”) without attaching a gazetted order by the Home Minister to that effect. 

Under S5 of the Societies Act 1966, only the Home Minister may by order declare a society to be unlawful if a society is being used for purposes prejudicial to or incompatible with the interest of the security of Malaysia, public order or morality.

Among the reasons given by the Secretary General to declare COMANGO unlawful is that we are championing rights that deviate from Islam. This is untrue. 

The Secretary General also states that many of the endorsees of the report prepared by COMANGO for the universal periodic review (UPR) of Malaysia by the UN Human Rights Council are not Islam-based organisations, that some of the endorsees of the COMANGO report are not registered and that COMANGO itself is not registered with the Registrar of Societies as reasons for his declaration that COMANGO is ‘unlawful’. These reasons are not in accordance with S5 of the Societies Act 1966.

COMANGO is appalled that the Government is using Islam as a political tool to silence criticisms of human rights violations, and to demonise human rights defenders. It is bowing to alarmist tactics and is complicit in fanning rising and extremely divisive intolerance in this country. 

The UPR process of the United Nations Human Rights Council involves all 193 UN member states, including Muslim-majority countries. Many Muslim-majority countries have acceded to the human rights treaties branded as un-Islamic by extremist groups, which have been making inaccurate and unsubstantiated accusations against COMANGO. We are concerned that the Government has not only adopted the language and positions of these extremist groups, but also facilitated hate speech by funding groups such as PERKASA. The media statement by the Home Ministry affirms our view that the Government appears to be beholden to these extremist groups.

The list attached with the media statement is inaccurate and misleading. Organisations in COMANGO include organisations registered under the Societies Act 1966, the Companies Act 1965, unincorporated associations, and civil society coalitions. 

COMANGO refutes the Secretary General’s statement that only organisations registered with the Registrar of Societies are carrying out activities legally (“menjalankan aktiviti secara sah”).

We stress that none of COMANGO’s work has been contrary to the Federal Constitution, human rights principles or Malaysia’s own human rights commitment as a member state of the United Nations. Civil society’s participation including submissions of reports to the UN Human Rights Council, treaty bodies and the special procedures are recognised and well-established contributions to the UPR process. The UPR process requires governments to work in consultation with all stakeholders to improve the human rights situation in their respective country. COMANGO’s work falls squarely within these mandated processes in resolutions passed by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. 

The Government of Malaysia has engaged with COMANGO many times since we submitted our first report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2008. COMANGO met with members of the Malaysian Government delegation during Malaysia’s review in Geneva in October 2013, as well as before the review, in September. COMANGO has also been invited to participate in consultations with the Government’s representative to the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission of Human Rights (AICHR), and with AICHR itself at the regional level.

Malaysia is actively vying to be part of the UN Security Council. As such the Government cannot be part of some UN processes and disavow others, particularly when the Human Rights Council is very much a key component of the larger UN human rights system. The UPR process is as a peer-review mechanism designed to prompt, support, and expand the promotion and protection of human rights to be equally enjoyed by every human being, with the goal of improving the human rights situation in every country. The Government’s action through the Home Ministry is in opposition to this goal and violates our rights to freedom of expression and association. 

Declaring COMANGO as unlawful is a political ploy to distract the rakyat from national disunity, endemic corruption, unequal distribution of wealth, and unpopular decisions of the government such as the implementation of a Goods and Services Tax (GST), as well as rising living costs in terms of petrol, toll fees, and electricity.

COMANGO will be instructing solicitors to file a judicial review in the High Court to quash the decision made by the Secretary General. 

Honey Tan Lay Ean                                                             Yap Swee Seng

Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor                        Suara Rakyat Malaysia

(EMPOWER)                                                                        (SUARAM)

for and on behalf of the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (COMANGO) 

Email: empower05@gmail.com, detention@suaram.net

Tel: 03–7784 4977 (EMPOWER) and 03-7784 3525 (SUARAM)


On 11 January 2014 16:02, Amy Smith <amy.alex.smith@gmail.com> wrote:

Amnesty International article on Malaysia’s recent attempt to ban COMANGO, a coalition of 54 human rights organizations. Malaysia’s growing intolerance of human rights is indeed concerning!
Amy.

8 January 2014

Malaysia: Move to outlaw human rights groups is an assault on freedom

Comango had criticized Malaysia's human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council.

Comango had criticized Malaysia’s human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council.

© Eric Bridiers/U.S. Mission

Outlawing COMANGO is a deeply disturbing action aimed at silencing important critical voices that have advocated on the world stage for Malaysia to uphold international human rights law and standards

Hazel Galang-Folli, Malaysia researcher at Amnesty International
Wed, 08/01/2014

It is concerning to see the Malaysian authorities increasingly taking their cue from hardline religious groups and others seeking to silence those who espouse views that differ from their own agenda

Hazel Galang-Folli

Today’s attempt by Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs to ban the country’s leading coalition of human rights NGOs is a disturbing assault on the rights to freedom of expression and association, Amnesty International said.

The Ministry alleged that the majority of the 54 groups that make up the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs (COMANGO) are “un-Islamic”, lack official registration, and are therefore prohibited.

“Outlawing COMANGO is a deeply disturbing action aimed at silencing important critical voices that have advocated on the world stage for Malaysia to uphold international human rights law and standards,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Malaysia researcher at Amnesty International.

COMANGO responded to the move by saying that, as a coalition of different NGOs rather than a single organization, it is not bound by the requirement to register under Malaysia’s Societies Act, which dates back to 1966.

The coalition raised the ire of the Malaysian authorities in March 2013 when it submitted a report to the United Nations, ahead of Malaysia being scrutinized under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session late last year.

Its report pointed to a wide range of areas where the Malaysian authorities need to improve their human rights record – not only on freedom of religion and the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, but also on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. Amnesty International and other non-governmental organizations highlighted similar concerns in recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council last year ahead of its UPR of Malaysia.

“This move seems less about enforcing registration requirements and more about removing a thorn in the side of the authorities. Labelling human rights groups ‘illegal’ only adds to an already long list of human rights violations that Malaysia’s authorities need to remedy, as the UN’s Universal Periodic Review process again highlighted last year,” said Galang-Folli.

Freedom of religion was one of the key issues discussed during Malaysia’s UPR review, with several states making comments and recommendations. A representative of the Malaysian government defended the religious restrictions, saying that they were in the interest of public order.

Although Malaysians adhere to a variety of religious faiths, the Constitution prescribes Islam – followed by more than 60 per cent of the population – as the official religion. But the country’s legal system has its roots in Common Law, and Shari’a law has traditionally only applied to practicing Muslims.

“It is concerning to see the Malaysian authorities increasingly taking their cue from hardline religious groups and others seeking to silence those who espouse views that differ from their own agenda,” said Galang-Folli.


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Concerning Custodial Deaths .

 

Press Statement: 18 July 2013

2013 Custodial Deaths List- Will this ever end?

SUARAM once again is publicizing the list of deaths under state custody for the year 2013.

Year Date Name Age Location
2013 14-Jan-13 Chang Chin Te 30 USJ8
2013 23-Jan-13 Sugumaran 39 Batu 14 Cheras
2013 01-Feb-13 Mohd.Ropi 43 Temerloh, Died at the Sultan Ahmad Shah    Hospital
2013 10-Mar-13 M.Ragu 47 Kampar
2013 17-Mar-13 UNKNOWN 55 Seri Alam Johor
2013 3-April-13 Muhammad   Kusyairi 25 Hospital Pulau Pinang
2013 21-May-13 Dharmendran 32 IPK KL
2013 27-May-13 Jamesh Ramesh 40 Penang
2013 01-Jun-13 Karunanithi 42 IPD Tampin
2013 8-Jun-2013 Nobuhiro Matshushita 33 USJ8
2013 4-July-2013 Cheong Fook Meng 53 Jalan Imbi
2013 16-July-2013 Chew Shiang Giap 26 Pusat   Pemulihan Akhlak Batu Gajah

Three people have now died in police custody on the same date, the 16 of July. The first two were Teoh Beng Hock and Gunasegaran back in 2009 and now we have the latest case of Chew Siang Giap who was also found dead in the Batu Gajah prison rehabilitation centre on 16 July 2013. His death has once again has sparked public outrage against the increasing number of custodial deaths in the country.

SUARAM calls on the police to ensure accountability for the so-called “sudden deaths” of the individuals name above who were healthy before they were apprehended but lost their lives while under the responsibility of the police.

The right to life is guaranteed in Article 5 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). However the cases above highlight how personnel from the Royal Police of Malaysia seem to have a lack of respect for this fundamental right and the value of human life.

The police force and the judiciary tend to respond swiftly to other cases of murder but continue to fail to take similar steps in cases of deaths under police custody of innocent victims. This sends a chilling message to the public that these deaths do not count and that police personnel can operate above the law with impunity in this country. SUARAM calls on the authorities to ensure an independent and impartial investigation into all these cases and to make the findings public.

From the list above, only 3 police officers have been charged for the death of N. Dharmendran only after public pressure and outcry while one of them went missing. On the case of Karunanithi, who died in Tampin in June, till today no officers have been charged despite the fact that the post-mortem and video shows evidence of bruises and injuries on his body.

Now in this latest case of Chew Siang Giap, his father has also found bruises on the ears, shoulder and thigh of the deceased body. It is unacceptable that Chew Siang Giap’s family has to plead for an independent investigation to be made in order for the perpetrators to be held to account. Why can’t the police be proactive in investigating this death in custody? Further the EAIC has also been silent on the matter and has yet to initiate any investigation which is within their powers.

SUARAM calls for the setting up of an independent oversight mechanism to make sure the Royal Police of Malaysia respects human rights and performs its duties in accordance to the law. The Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) has been the ongoing call from civil society groups since it was first proposed by the Royal Police Commission back in 2005.

SUARAM wants an end to these serious human rights violations. The public wants an independent body to probe these deaths in custody and hold the perpetrators to account. The failure to ensure effective police accountability mechanisms highlights the lack of political will by the government to take genuine steps to reform the police in this country.

Released by,

Thevarajan R

SUARAM Coordinator

— Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) 433A, Jalan 5/46, Gasing Indah,
46000, Petaling Jaya, Selangor Malaysia Tel: +603 77843525 Fax: +603 77843526
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/suararakyatmalaysia
Twitter:
SUARAMtweets 

 

__._,_.___
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Next Stop, a Ban on Nuclear Weapons?

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/15318-next-stop-a-ban-on-nuclear-weapons

Next Stop, a Ban on Nuclear Weapons?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013 09:38 By Tim Wright, Truthout | Op-Ed

A quiet revolution took place in Oslo earlier this month. More than 120 governments, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society gathered to debate the problem of nuclear weapons, not in military and geopolitical terms, as has been done for decades, but through a humanitarian lens. Never before in the 68 years of the atomic age has there been any serious discussion at a governmental level of the catastrophic harm caused by nuclear weapons, nor a concerted push by states to outlaw these weapons completely.

The five major nuclear powers – the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China – were understandably unhappy about this Norwegian government initiative. Just days before the conference kicked off, they issued a joint statement declaring that they would boycott it, even though a couple of them had earlier indicated that they would attend. But this was not enough to deter other governments from taking part, including many members of NATO, Australia, Japan and South Korea, all of which rely on America’s so-called “extended nuclear deterrent.”

It was a major strategic blunder on the part of the “P5” nuclear powers not to show up. Their absence only ensured that the discussion remained focused on the horrific effects of nuclear weapons, immediate and long term, and the need for a ban. Representatives from one state after another rose to express their grave concerns over the continuing threat that nuclear weapons pose to all humanity. The Red Cross warned that no national or international response capacity exists – nor could one ever be developed – to respond effectively in the event of even a single nuclear detonation, let alone in the more likely scenario of a nuclear exchange.

Some international media outlets felt that the absence of the United States and other powerful states diminished the meeting’s significance. But if these countries had considered the meeting unimportant, they would probably have turned up. They appear concerned that the new humanitarian-based approach to nuclear disarmament has the potential to disrupt the status quo of disarmament inaction. At the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva – a body that has been moribund for 17 years though it schedules meetings approximately five months out of the year – the P5 delivered statements deriding the Oslo conference as a “distraction” from the many “practical” nonproliferation and arms control measures they are pursuing.

But this is mere rhetoric. No nuclear-armed nation has shown any genuine commitment to eliminating its nuclear weapons. They pay lip service to nuclear disarmament – making “unequivocal undertakings” to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world – but at the same time invest billions of dollars in the modernization of their nuclear forces, with the clear intention of retaining them for many decades to come. Both US Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, have suggested that nuclear disarmament is a centuries-long process.

The focus of the P5 is on curbing proliferation: preventing North Korea from developing its nuclear weapons program any further and ensuring that Iran does not use its enriched uranium for bomb-making. But the P5 can hardly take the moral high ground on nuclear nonproliferation while refusing to make any meaningful progress in abolishing their own vast nuclear stockpiles. As Desmond Tutu recently opined in Britain’s Guardian newspaper: “We cannot intimidate others into behaving well when we ourselves are misbehaving. Yet that is precisely what nations armed with nuclear weapons hope to do by censuring North Korea . . . and Iran.”

Achieving a Ban

So how will the Oslo conference help to overcome this logjam? We have learned from processes to ban other categories of weapons that cause unacceptable suffering – such as antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions – that adopting a humanitarian-based discourse is an important first step. New coalitions of states can be formed and longstanding deadlocks broken. For both of these types of weapons, the major producers and users claimed they were essential for their national security. But disarmament campaigners, humanitarian relief agencies and like-minded governments demonstrated that, from a humanitarian standpoint, bans were necessary. In a few short years, treaties were negotiated and brought into force.

The Oslo conference has the potential to lead us to a negotiating process for a ban on nuclear weapons. The Mexican government has already announced a follow-up conference. Other governments have indicated a willingness to host further conferences. The precise aim has not yet been stated. However, it would likely be a treaty that prohibits the use, production, testing and possession of nuclear weapons and establishes a legal framework for their elimination. This new international legal instrument would create a powerful global norm against nuclear weapons, speeding up the process for total nuclear disarmament.

Even without the support of the P5 and other nuclear-armed nations, the benefits of a ban would be considerable. For example, with an international ban in place, would it be tenable for the British government to proceed with the renewal of its fleet of nuclear-armed Trident submarines, a decision on which is expected in 2016? Would the five NATO states that host US nuclear weapons – Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey – be able to keep doing so? Would countries such as Australia and Japan still consider it acceptable to claim reliance on US extended nuclear deterrence? Would banks around the world be comfortable financing companies that manufacture nuclear arms?

It would be unrealistic to expect that one day all or most of the nine nuclear-armed states – the P5 plus India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – would be willing to sit around a table together and agree to eliminate their nuclear weapons. This is simply not how disarmament will come about. Most of these states have said that they will only do away with their own nuclear weapons once all other nuclear weapons in the world have been dismantled. We clearly should not rely on their leadership in this endeavor. Non-nuclear-weapon states – which make up the vast majority of states in the world – must drive the international push for a ban.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which coordinated civil society participation in the Oslo conference, has used the analogy of a train journey to describe what began in Norway this month: We have left the platform in Oslo. Before too long, we will arrive in Mexico; and there will be a series of further stops. Along the way, some governments will get off; others will come on board. But the momentum will continue throughout, sustained by the overwhelming will of the world’s people to achieve a more peaceful future, free from the threat of radioactive incineration. That momentum will take us to our destination – a ban on nuclear weapons. Reaching that place is an urgent humanitarian necessity.

Tim Wright is on the International Steering Group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. He served as a civil society delegate to the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Oslo, Norway.

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Oslo Conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

From: John Loretz <jloretz@ippnw.org>
To: IPPNW Discussions on peace and health <ippnwforum@googlegroups.com>; IPPNW Board <ippnwboard@googlegroups.com>
Sent: Thursday, 14 March 2013 12:40 AM
Subject: [IPPNWFORUM] Success in Oslo!

What follows is an unavoidably long report on what happened in Oslo last week. I hope you’ll make time to read the whole thing, but here are the headlines:
1) The government conference and the ICAN Civil Society Forum were both successful beyond our expectations. The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are now at the center of the abolition debate not only for civil society but also for a large and growing number of States.
 
2) IPPNW and ICAN played a major part in the success of both conferences, and we can be proud of what we accomplished.
 
3) Oslo was only the beginning. Mexico is next, and there’s a lot of new work to do, starting now.
So here are the details:
Last week, ICAN and IPPNW participated in two extraordinarily successful conferences in Oslo on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. That, in fact, was the title of the two-day intergovernmental conference hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was attended by 127 States, several UN agencies, the Red Cross Red Crescent movement, and a 50-person civil society delegation coordinated by ICAN. An ICAN-organized Civil Society Forum took place on the two days before the government conference, and drew 500 participants from 70 States, including about 40 of us from IPPNW.
This was the first time that States had come together — inside or outside the UN — to focus entirely on the nature and consequences of nuclear weapons, and to consider them as an existential threat requiring collective action. While Norway carefully arranged the conference as a scientific meeting and did not want to raise expectations too quickly that the conference might lead to a process to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons, the State delegations lost little time in calling for just that as the only responsible course of action. We had hoped that this conference would redirect the discourse about nuclear weapons toward their catastrophic and unacceptable consequences, and away from the disingenuous arguments offered by the nuclear-weapon states. That hope was more than fulfilled. The one concrete outcome that we wanted from the conference — and that was only in a little doubt until near the end — was an offer from Mexico to host a followup conference as soon as possible — perhaps within this calendar year, or early in 2014. This offer came at the end of meeting, with a declaration that the momentum achieved in Oslo had to continue and that the humanitarian perspective on nuclear weapons required action from States, particularly the non-nuclear-weapon states.
You have all heard that the P5 boycotted the conference. This was a deliberate decision that the US, the UK, and France took in consultation with each other, while Russia and China were happy to go along. India and Pakistan sent representatives to Oslo. Israel, of course, did not. This was inexcusable behavior on the part of the P5, but if the intent was to marginalize the conference and diminish its significance, the result was exactly the opposite. Foreign Minister Eide told the press before the conference began that the reasons given by the P5 for their absence (basically, that the conference was a “distraction” from their important step-by-step disarmament initiatives inside the NPT) were “not convincing.” With some strategic counsel from ICAN, most States at the conference easily came to understand that they would be in a stronger position to discuss the real issues and to set an agenda that could lead to meaningful progress without the predictable “distractions” from the P5. And that’s exactly what happened!
The program of the conference, including the plenary presentations, many of the government statements and interventions, the Chair’s summary, and streaming video of all the sessions on both days, can be found on the conference website. Many of the same materials, and an excellent report on the conference, are at Reaching Critical Will.
I won’t try to summarize all of that separately here, but I do want to highlight a few things of special interest to IPPNW:
  • The content of this conference, from beginning to end, echoed and amplified IPPNW’s core message for the past 30 years — that the consequences of nuclear weapons use and nuclear war would be unimaginably catastrophic; that not only do we lack the capacity to mount a medical and humanitarian response to the victims of nuclear detonations, but that any attempt to prepare such a response capacity is infeasible; and that the only appropriate and responsible course of action is prevention.
  • While some concerns had been expressed in the run-up to the conference that there would be an equivocal (or even damaging) message about preparedness planning in the event that a nuclear weapon were used against a city, those concerns turned out to be unwarranted. There were a couple of presentations by UN disaster-response agencies unfamiliar with the extreme challenges presented by nuclear weapons use, during which they suggested that the systems in place for responding to major natural and industrial disasters are a good basis for planning a coordinated response to a nuclear attack. That poorly informed notion was quickly refuted by the ICRC, by several States during their interventions, and by Foreign Minister Eide in his factual summary.
  • IPPNW was very well represented from the podium. Sir Andy Haines, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a veteran of our UK affiliate, Medact, gave a textbook IPPNW bombing run, in which he described the medical and environmental catastrophe that would follow the detonation of a nuclear weapon. Masao Tomonaga, the director of the Japanese Red Cross Hospital in Nagasaki and IPPNW’s regional vice president for North Asia, described his experience as a Nagasaki survivor and explained the acute and long-term effects of radiation exposure. What we heard repeatedly from many participants, however, was that the most compelling presentation of the conference was made by IPPNW co-president Ira Helfand. Speaking as a representative of ICAN, Ira gave one of his most powerful presentations to date on nuclear famine and the long term medical, environmental, and humanitarian catastrophe that would result from nuclear war. There’s a short clip on our YouTube channel that I was able to capture on my little point-and-shoot camera, but I urge you to watch the whole thing on the streaming video from day one, at the MFA link above.
The ICAN Civil Society Forum on March 2-3 set out to explicitly link the humanitarian perspective with campaign
objectives. The first day was devoted to scientific presentations and personal narratives, with well crafted talks by Patricia Lewis, Andy Haines, Ira Helfand, and Rutgers climate scientist Alan Robock. I had never seen Ira and Alan work as a team before in making the nuclear famine/nuclear winter presentation, and they were simply brilliant together! For those of us who have been working on this issue since the 1980s or even longer, much of this material was very familiar. But for many of the participants — the majority of whom, by my reckoning, were under 30 — this was new information, and they soaked it up eagerly. I would have to say, in fact, that an important subtext of this Forum (and ICAN as a whole, for that matter) was the way in which a new generation of activists has taken the nuclear weapons issue to heart and has made abolition their own cause. If this really is the next (the last?) big push, the kind of youthful energy apparent in that room is exactly what we’ll all need.
It’s hard to keep this brief, given all that happened in Oslo, but I do need to say something about next steps. ICAN met for the better part of a day after the conference to discuss the outcome and to sort out some priorities for the rest of this year. We also talked about this a bit at an IPPNW meeting right after the Civil Society Forum. Here are the essential points:
  1. Media coverage of the conference was limited and rather sparse. Use the ICAN press statement as a basis for op-eds and letters to the editor, and continue to talk about the importance of the events in Oslo among your networks, including your social media networks.
  2. If your country sent a delegation to Oslo (you can get the list of countries and the names of the delegates from both the MFA and RCW websites), follow up with them. Find out what they thought about the conference, what they plan to do with the information they acquired, and how they will feed back what they learned to national decision makers.
  3. Just as important, urge your country to attend the next conference in Mexico and to send a well prepared delegation ready to take practical next steps. All States that attended the Oslo conference need to be in Mexico, and we want to add new ones. We’ll talk more over the coming months about how they can best prepare for this important follow-up conference. (The dates and exact location have not yet been announced. We’ll keep you informed as new information becomes available.)
  4. If you live in a P5 nuclear-weapon state, tell your government that its absence from Oslo was a serious mistake in judgment, and that you expect it to send a delegation to Mexico.
  5. The ICRC and the Red Cross Red Crescent movement played a prominent role in Oslo, and will undoubtedly do so again in Mexico. Nevertheless, only a few national RC societies took part. We can use the time between now and Mexico to build our relationship with our Red Cross Red Crescent colleagues at every level, and to help national societies promote the Oslo message as an outgrowth of the IFRC resolution.
I’m bound to have left some things out, but I’ll leave it there for now. It’s a lot to absorb, but this is going to pretty much define our nuclear abolition work for the foreseeable future.
Here are some additional links to Oslo resources and commentaries, compiled by Bea Fihn of Reaching Critical Will:
Photos
Alexander Harang
Xante Hall
Video
ICAN’s video statement to the conference:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7t6BmRzDS0&feature=youtu.be
ICAN’s promo video that was shown at the ICAN Civil Society Forum: http://youtu.be/ZjBd_GHvZ0Y
ICAN Israel’s video about humanitarian consequences: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McGlK1_FBzY&feature=youtu.be
 
Press releases
Blog posts
Op-eds
Congratulations to everyone who participated and contributed to this big milestone on our path to a nuclear-weapons-free world. Let me (or any of the other IPPNW members of the ICAN steering group, i.e., Tilman Ruff, Bob Mtonga, Andi Nidecker, or Josefin Lind) know if you have any questions about what happened in Oslo, or want more information about where we go from here.
John
John Loretz
Program Director
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
66-70 Union Square, Suite 204
Somerville, MA 02143
Tel: +617 440 1733, ext. 308
IPPNW Peace and Health Blog:
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)


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Report on Lynas environmental hazard

 

LAUNCH OF REPORT ON THE DESCRIPTION AND CRITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL EVALUATION OF THE LYNAS ADVANCED MATERIALS PLANT IN GEBENG, PAHANG

 

Ronald McCoy

 

 

Introduction

The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng, Pahang, claims to be the world’s largest rare earth refinery project. Such industrial projects generate enormous volumes of toxic and radioactive waste and are linked with serious environmental pollution and health risks. LAMP is located in a densely populated area, with the nearest housing estate a mere 2 kilometres away and 700,000 people living within a 30 kilometre radius. It is the Malaysian subsidiary of an Australian company, Lynas Corporation, which mines rare earths in Mount Weld, Western Australia.

 

There has been widespread public opposition to the Lynas plant as Malaysians are painfully aware of the serious health and environmental hazards of processing rare earth elements, when there is no stringent regulation and control, reinforced by Malaysia’s unreliable maintenance and safety culture, as a result of irregular enforcement of the law, lax attitudes to safety regulations and procedures in occupational health, and inadequately trained and motivated personnel.

 

In the 1980s, the Asian Rare Earth (ARE) refinery company, owned by the Mitsubishi Chemical company, failed to safely dispose of its industrial waste, containing radioactive thorium hydroxide. Workers and the neighbouring community were exposed to ionising radiation, resulting in several birth defects and leukaemia cases among the 11,000 people living in Bukit Merah and Papan, Perak. Seven of the eight cases of  leukaemia were fatal. Public protests and legal action eventually forced Mitsubishi Chemical to close its operations in 1992 and agree to an out-of-court settlement with the residents of Bukit Merah. The clean-up has cost the company an estimated US$100 million.

 

A similar scenario of health and environmental problems is unfolding among rare earth refineries in China, which possesses 57% of the world’s reserves of rare earth elements and controls 95% of the world’s markets.

 

 

 

2

 

Ionising radiation

It is important to understand the health effects of ionising radiation, which can be defined as radiation that has sufficient energy to displace

electrons from molecules. Human beings are exposed to radiation from both natural and man-made sources. Very high doses of radiation will damage tissues which can be evident within days after exposure, whereas low levels of radiation are insidious and may take years to show up late effects, such as cancer.

 

The report of the Biological Exposure to Ionising Radiation VII (BEIR VII) committee of the US National Academy of Sciences concludes that current scientific evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear dose-response relationship between exposure to ionising radiation and the development of radiation-induced solid cancers in humans. In other words, there is no safe threshold of exposure to ionising radiation and, therefore, exposure to even the smallest dose has the potential to increase the risk to humans.1

 

Public reaction

Thousands of Malaysians have joined two non-governmental organisations, which have organised public protests, taken legal action, and demanded closure of the Lynas plant. But the Pahang state government and the federal government continue to dismiss public sentiment and openly support the project, which will inevitably contaminate the environment and cause health problems for the 700,000 people who live within a radius of 30 kilometres.

 

The plant in Gebeng will make a lot of money for Lynas Corporation,  which has received a 12-year tax exemption, and for those Malaysians with vested interests in the project. Undoubtedly, it is the profit motive that is driving the project and suppressing genuine community concerns about public health and environmental dangers.

 

The Malaysian government and its business cronies have garnered the support of several groups who favour government policy and the Lynas project, including the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and the National Professors Council, who claim to have conducted ‘comprehensive’ studies and made an ‘independent’ joint report, Rare Earth Industries: Moving Malaysia’s Green Economy Forward.

 

 

3

 

While the report concedes that radioactive and chemical waste, generated by rare earth industrial plants, poses risks to health and the environment, it also incredibly claims that it is possible to manage and mitigate such risks safely,  that “Malaysia’s regulatory standards on rare earths follow

international standards” and that “Malaysia’s regulatory regime is even more stringent than international guidelines.” 2

 

The two academic groups need to be reminded of the country’s litany of serious industrial accidents and the government’s breathtaking abandonment of fundamental principles and mandatory procedures, when it issued a construction licence for the massive, polluting Lynas plant in 2008 before the completion of a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment. In addition, the Atomic Energy Licencing Board (AELB) also jumped the gun when it issued Lynas a Temporary Operating Licence on 30th January 2012, not having made an unbiased, independent assessment and evaluation of the risks posed by the plant. This reflects some of the cavalier attitudes of some government ministries and their regulating bodies.

 

Having grave doubts that Lynas is in a position to genuinely guarantee the safety of its temporary and permanent disposal of its toxic and radioactive waste, two non-governmental organisations have organised public protests and submitted appeals and affidavits by technical experts.

 

Realising the importance of independent environmental assessment and evaluation, one of the NGOs, Save Malaysia Stop Lynas, commissioned Oeko-Institut e.V. to assess and evaluate the risks. Oeko-Institut is a leading European research and consultancy group, based in Darmstadt, Germany, with a reputation for sound engineering practices and a commitment to ecology and human welfare.

 

Summary of Oeko-Institut report

Oeko-Institut was tasked with:

  • independently checking whether the technical standards applied by Lynas meet “best available technology” and sustainability criteria
  • clarifying the risks and consequences of any failure of control and lack of adequate oversight
  • recommending necessary controls and oversight to limit risks and consequences, if any.

 

 

4

 

Lynas’ production process

The production process consists of four stages:

  1. Cracking stage: In this first stage, the ore concentrate (which contains the radioactive elements of thorium and uranium) is dissolved by mixing it with concentrated sulphuric acid and heating it to 350 – 450oC. Sulphuric acid vapour and sulphur dioxide in the gas stream are treated in the flue gas desulphurization (FGD) facility, and neutralised with lime (CaCO3) to form a mixture of gypsum (calcium sulphate) and calcium sulphite.

 

  1. Water leach and purification process: The concentrated sulphuric acid solution with the dissolved materials is diluted with water and treated with magnesium oxide to reduce the pH of the solution, thereby precipitating several by-products. Insoluble ore concentrate components and precipitated by-products are filtered, washed and finally transported as a paste to a storage facility (water leach purification residue storage facility, WLP-RSF).

 

  1. Separation stage: The solution is then mixed with hydrochloric acid (HCl) and the different rare element chlorides are extracted in seven single extraction stages, after removing impurities.

 

  1. Product-finishing stage: The different extraction liquids are treated with sodium carbonate, neutralised with magnesium oxide and precipitated with sodium carbonate solution or with oxalic acid, filtered, and either marketed as such or followed by additional stages to yield marketable products.

 

Input materials of the refining process

The input materials of the refining process consist of the following:

  • Ore concentrate
  • Water, either as raw water or as supernatant solution, as well as precipitation collected from the water leach purification (WLP) storage pond.
  • Natural gas for heating the kilns.
  • Concentrated sulphuric acid for digesting the ore.
  • Concentrated hydrochloric acid for the separation stage.
  • Magnesium oxide for neutralising the hydrochloric acid.
  • Soda ash and lime for neutralising the hydrochloric acid.

5

 

  • Oxalic acid for purification of products.
  • Solvent and kerosene for separation and extraction.

 

Output materials of the refining process

The output materials of the refining process consist of the following:

  • Diverse rare earth elements (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, etc) which are marketable products.
  • Discharged waste water.
  • Discharged offgas.
  • Several waste streams to be stored, re-used or disposed.
  • Used chemicals, especially solvents and kerosene, to be treated, cleaned and recycled externally.

 

The environmental impact of the Lynas plant will largely be determined by the manner in which the plant’s input materials are transported and stored and its toxic and radioactive waste managed.

 

The Oeko-Institut report has expressed grave concerns about the inevitable consequences of Lynas’ incoherent waste management concept. The absence of relevant data in documents prevents any reliable accounting for all toxic materials introduced into the process, such as the amounts of toxic by-products present in the ore concentrate, including thorium.

 

The Lynas toxic and radioactive waste problem

The Lynas plant in Gebeng has a serious waste problem. It is estimated that it will import 66,000 tonnes of ore concentrate from Australia every year and process the ore to yield about 22,000 tonnes of high purity rare earth metals, which will then be exported to the United States, Europe and Japan where they will play a strategic role in high technology industries for manufacturing consumer goods, such as computers, mobile phones and hybrid cars.

 

In the process, the Lynas plant will also produce enormous amounts of toxic and radioactive waste. The production of every tonne of rare earth metals will generate 8.5 kilograms (18.7 lbs) of fluorine, 13 kilograms (28.7 lbs) of dust, 9,600 – 12,000 cubic metres of waste gas (containing dust concentrate, hydrofluoric acid, sulphur dioxide and sulphuric acid), 75 cubic metres of acidic waste-water, and about one ton of radioactive waste, including thorium and uranium. So, multiply these figures on

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waste by a factor of 22,000 and it will give you a clear picture of the total volume of waste, amounting to about 220,000 tonnes (including 120 tonnes of radioactive thorium), to be disposed of every year.

 

In addition, the process will use up and pollute 500 tonnes of clean water every hour. This enormous volume of polluted water will then be discharged into the BalokRiver and will eventually contaminate the South China Sea.

 

Waste management

Each of the three waste streams, which stem from the three different stages of the plant – Water Leach Purification (WLP), Neutralisation Underflow (WUF), and Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) – will have a very different composition.

 

It is unfortunate that the documents, made accessible to Oeko-Institut, did not provide complete or reliable information on the leaching characteristics of the wastes, which would determine subsequent storage and disposal of the wastes. However, it is likely that 99% of the radioactive thorium and radium constituents in the ore concentrate are present in the WLP waste stream.

 

As such characteristics of the three waste streams are not known, only a few “generic” assumptions could be made, including that the radio- toxic and chemo-toxic constituents of the waste would be fully soluble and geochemically mobile.

 

Waste storage on-site

The three waste streams containing wastes, which should be classified as “long-living low radioactive and hazardous wastes,” will be stored on-site in dedicated facilities, called “Residue Storage Facilities (RSF).

 

The poor design of the liner system of the RSF will include the use of a single barrier, instead of independent multiple barriers. This will not guarantee safe, leak-proof storage of radioactive and hazardous waste.

 

In fact, the preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has made an astounding finding and identified such a danger: “The potential leaching of trace metals, including radioactive lanthanide metals, from the residues may result in contamination of the underlying soil and groundwater resources.”

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Incredibly, the preliminary EIA evaluates the technical measures to prevent leakage as adequate and recommends the “monitoring of groundwater in the vicinity of the RSF…on a regular basis.” But monitoring groundwater will not prevent leakages.

 

The design of the RSF facilities is therefore technically inappropriate because it does not prevent leakage. It will allow radioactive and toxic wastes to leak and enter the natural layers of earth under the Lynas facility and reach the groundwater table. It will therefore be impossible for the Lynas plant to contain such radioactive contamination of the environment.

 

Emissions of radon gas

Radiation risks from the emission of radon gas from the Lynas plant are small. But it is unscientific and misleading to dismiss them by equating them with natural background radiation levels, because the risk from background radiation is not zero. It should be emphasised that there is no safe threshold for radiation. All radiation is harmful to health.

 

Emissions of sulphuric acid and dust

Waste gas from the heating of the ore with concentrated sulphuric acid is treated to remove dust and other substances, but waste gas from the roasting of rare earth oxalate is not filtered for dust and is discharged directly into the atmosphere.

 

Analysing and comparing these emissions, the report concludes:

  • that no reasons are given for not providing a comprehensive system to treat all waste gas and remove dust;
  • that Malaysia’s environmental regulation of air quality is inappropriately lacking in current scientific knowledge and technical advances in the reduction of  emissions;
  • that Lynas’ treatment systems for abating acids, acidic gases and dust do not conform to the best technology available. As a result, sulphuric acid and dust emissions are too high by at least a factor of two.

 

In other words, Lynas is not keeping up with scientific advances in waste management.

 

 

 

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Discharge of waste through water pathways

Lynas uses large volumes of clean water in the cracking stage of the process, at the end of which the polluted water is channelled through an earthen channel over three kilometres into the BalokRiver and eventually into the South China Sea.

 

The report concludes:

  • that, as Lynas does not provide information on the by-product content of the ore concentrate in its Preliminary Environmental Impact Study, complete calculations cannot be made for other toxic constituents of the ore;
  • that Lynas also does not provide full information or evaluations on the specific constituents of the waste-water, including their identities, concentrations and environmental impacts, as would be normally  required in any Preliminary Environmental Impact Study.
  • that it is unacceptable that the discharge of waste water containing toxic constituents in an open earth channel is accessible to humans and animals. Such toxic waste water should be discharged through a pipeline that will prevent seepage into groundwater and unintended use of the water.

 

The report therefore throws into doubt the validity of the Preliminary Environmental Impact Study.

 

The control of hazards in the production process

Any industrial facility, which makes use of and stores large amounts of concentrated acids, carries the potential risk that storage tanks will leak. Therefore, preventive measures, rapid detection of leaks, and ability to limit environmental damage should receive priority.

 

However, the report confirmed:

  • that the assessment of specific environmental hazards to soil and groundwater, following tank leakages and sulphuric acid vapour release, was inadequate.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wastes from the production process

From its detailed analysis of waste management by the Lynas plant, the report concluded:

  • that the design of Residual Storage Facilities is defective, with regard to preventing leakage of radioactive and toxic constituents into the near groundwater, even under normal operating conditions. As the layers under the plant are not qualified as barriers and do not guarantee the enclosure of those constituents, seepage is not substantially reduced or delayed. It is an open question whether such an inappropriate design is compatible with the minimal requirements laid down in Malaysia for the control of radioactive waste and its storage.
  • that the Residual Storage Facilities for waste from the Water Leach Purification process, containing the highest radionuclide content, has several defects, such as:

–         a limited capacity for storage

–         inadequate design for safeguarding against heavy rain and for protecting workers from exposure to radioactive waste

–         the lack of a design to cope with enhanced enrichment of radium and the absence of any procedure for dealing with such wastes. Clearly, the increased risks to workers has not been recognised and planned for.

  • that the Residual Storage Facilities should not be designated as a permanent disposal facility, because of significant deficiencies in the choice of a suitable site, the design of the facility, and the long term isolation of  the facilities. Of particular importance is that the base layers of the facility are insufficient and cannot now be upgraded to meet the more stringent requirements of a permanent radioactive waste disposal site.
  • that the option of releasing Water Leach Purification wastes to the public domain, either in their original form or in a mixture with other diluting substances, such as concrete or fixing agents, would expose workers and the public to excessive radiation from direct gamma rays. This option will pose an unacceptable risk to the general public and should be banned and ruled out completely.
  • A safe and acceptable way to establish a permanent disposal facility for the waste must remain a prerequisite for the management of these wastes. This will include a comprehensive  commitment to safety, a sound site selection, the broad consent of the affected public, and a carefully scrutinised licence for construction.

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It is one year since the Atomic Energy Licensing Board issued a Temporary Operating Licence and yet a site for a permanent disposal facility has yet to be identified.  It is beyond argument that no waste generation should be allowed, until all necessary measures have been undertaken to build such a facility, compatible with the required safety standards.

 

In addition, the Malaysian government’s approach and attitude towards ensuring adequate funds for decommissioning, clean-up and waste disposal leaves much to be desired. This is yet another good reason to oppose the Lynas plant and protect future generations from the hazards of toxic, radioactive industrial waste. It is also a good reason to replace the current pro-business government, which is deaf to the cries of the public and incapable of responding to public concerns about health and environmental safety.

 

It gives me great pleasure to launch the release of this important report.

 

 

References

  1. Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation VII report, The National  Academy of Sciences. http://www.nap.edu
  2. The Academy of Sciences Malaysia and the National Professors’ Council report. Rare Earth Industries: Moving Malaysia’s Green Economy Forward, August 2011.

 

 

 

 

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