The Rio Tinto 'pullout' may be linked to the refusal of the federal government to sell Bakun Dam to the chief minister, claims the DAP.
KUCHING: Global mining giant Rio Tinto PLC’s “pullout” from Sarawak may be temporary in view of the 13th general election, the uproar over Lynas in Pahang and the fact that Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has not been able to buy the Bakun Dam from the federal government.
Based on this reality, Sarawak DAP treasurer Violet Yong believes that “they might resume negotiations after the election”.
“Announcing the project [pullout by Rio Tinto] just before the general election is a political gimmick. Also, the reason for the termination is not because they did not agree to the purchase of the price of electricity.
“To me, one of the reasons is that the election is very near. And they [BN leaders] are worried that they will face the same consequences as that of Lynas.
“They have to wait, I think, until after the election; then only they will know whether Pakatan Rakyat takes over the government or not,” she said.
Taib yesterday said Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy (SCORE) will not be affected by Rio Tinto’s decision to cancel its RM6.1 billion aluminium smelting project in the state.
“So, as far as Rio Tinto is concerned, they said the company is not going to go for the first phase only and is not going to participate at this stage because they do not want to be tied down,” Taib said.
Based on Taib’s comment that Rio Tinto is likely to return, Yong, who is the Pending assemblywoman, said that Taib could also be waiting to settle outstanding issues with the federal government over the Bakun Dam.
“We know that Taib wants to buy the Bakun Dam, but Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has issued a statement that his administration will not sell it to Sarawak.
“We know there is a confrontation between the state and the federal governments. Is Sarawak using the back-door pressure (the termination of the agreement) to force the federal government to sell the Bakun Dam?
“To me, the smelter project is only benefiting the cronies of the state government and not the people of Sarawak and not the Malaysian people as a whole.
“We know that the Bakun Dam is a ‘white elephant’. With the cancellation of the aluminium smelting project, it makes the dam a bigger ‘white elephant’,” she added.
Yong said the only way to bring a “permanent closure” to the smelting plant deal is for Sarawakians to vote for Pakatan Rakyat.
“From the beginning until now, the DAP stand is always very firm: we are against the aluminium smelting plant because this is a very polluted industry and many countries have rejected such industry.
“The Barisan Nasional does not want us to use it as an issue in the coming general election,” Yong said.
DAP had used the issue in the last state election when its candidate, Chiew Chu Sing, trounced Sarawak United People’s Party-BN candidate Henry Ling in the Kidurong seat with a 6,930- vote majority.