Is the Malaysian government embarking on “so-called” public consultation ‘secretly’?

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) was approached by a research company for its survey titled as ‘Malaysia Energy Consumption and Its Impacts Towards Economy Development’ early this month.

 We would like to express our concern that the survey is yet another attempt by the government and proponents of the nuclear power fraternity to hoodwink not just the public, but this time, even the civil societies.

In seeking clarification on the purpose and information on its client(s), the company’s initial reply was that it is ‘being engaged by industry key stakeholders to understand the market opinion on the topic and CAP is invited as a key opinion leader.’

Upon further probe, this time the research manager personally disclosed that ‘the client is the Malaysian government, advised by a group of industry stakeholders which consist of related government agencies, major industry players and think-tank groups’.

And that the objectives of the research are to gain in-depth thought leader opinions about energy development in Malaysia and to assess attitudes and beliefs of thought leaders on the pros and cons of energy development and their perceptions of public opinion.

He further stated that the study would like to gather opinion on four key topics – climate change and its impact, awareness on energy generation, nuclear energy development, and public opinion on nuclear energy development in Malaysia. A set of guiding questions for the interview with significant emphasis on nuclear energy was provided to selected respondents.

The innocuous-sounding title of the survey belies its underlying purpose. The nature of the interview sets alarm bells ringing that this could very well be the public consultation that the government needed to complete its Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development Plan (NPIDP).

Recent replies from the government at the on-going session of the parliament sitting further strengthened our suspicion. In responses to several Members of Parliament, it was made clear that public opinion study will begin soon and is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

CAP has thus declined to participate in the survey of which we take issue with the lack of upfront disclosure of its purpose and its paymasters. However, we referred them to publicly available materials expressing CAP’s concerns.

CAP, nevertheless, welcomes genuine public consultation and is of the opinion that any efforts towards that direction should be publicly announced and conducted in a transparent manner.

We call upon the government to come clean and clarify its relationship with this particular survey.

With regards to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Bill, we would like to remind the government of its commitment for a more open and transparent process in regulatory development and implementation as enshrined in its National Policy on the Development and Implementation of Regulations which clearly prescribed public consultation as a prerequisite for regulatory development.

We, therefore, urge the government to halt the tabling of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Bill until a full and transparent public participation is conducted according to the principles stated in the Guidelines on Public Consultation Procedures produced by the Malaysia Productivity Corporation in support of the national policy.

Press Statement, 26 November 2014