Hundreds protest outside Parliament against Penang reclamation project

Protesters hold banners and posters against the Penang reclamation project as they gather outside Parliament building today.

KUALA LUMPUR: A crowd of about 400 people marched to Parliament today to protest against the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project and sand mining in Perak.

The crowd, which comprised fishermen and representatives from various associations in Penang and Perak, began gathering at Taman Tugu at about 8am.

They started their march at 9am, carrying banners and flags and chanting slogans such as “Tolak Tambak” and “Pulau Palsu Pulau Haram”.

Their aim was to submit petitions and individual memorandums to the prime minister, along with the deputy prime minister and eight other ministers in the National Physical Planning Council.

Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim and Kota Bharu MP Takiyuddin Hassan were seen addressing the crowd on the issue.

Bakhtiar said they had listened to all of the arguments by the NGOs and fishermen on why they oppose the Penang reclamation project.

Fishermen demonstrate their unhappiness with the Penang South Reclamation project.

“Generally, we are also against any efforts to degrade the environment,” he said. “My stand is very clear here.

“But the one who can decide is the energy, science, technology, environment and climate change minister.”

Nurul Izzah, meanwhile, said the crowd had the right to be heard.

“That is why we (the MPs) are here to hear them out,” she said.

“It is very commendable that we have a huge portion of civil society covering not just Penang but also Perak and Kedah here together with the affected fishermen and other stakeholders.”

The reclamation of the three islands covers 1,800 hectares, and is part of the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan which calls for the construction of several highways and an LRT line.

It will be financed by the auction of 4,500 acres on the yet-to-be-reclaimed islands. The first island will take eight to 10 years to complete, with the rest ready in 20 years’ time.

Acting president of the Consumers’ Association of Penang Mohideen Abdul Kader said the reclamation project was a big initiative which would affect fisheries and marine biodiversity, ultimately destroying the livelihood of fishermen.

“Despite strong objections from civil society, fishermen and other stakeholders, the environmental impact assessment for the PSR was approved by the Department of Environment on June 5, less than a month after the closing date.

“Where is the neutrality? This is why we oppose this,” he said, adding that the PSR project would emit 3.2 million tonnes of carbon each year.

Khoo Salma Nasution from Penang Forum urged the government to prioritise the preservation of the environment, particularly the hills and the seas, and to reject the PSR project.

She said a petition which she wrote objecting to the project had gathered 45,000 signatures so far. She said the same petition was also launched in Perak, in an effort to save Malaysia’s turtles.

“Before this, there were another three petitions about environmentally damaging development and hill development including the Pan-Island Link, which have garnered another 160,000 signatures, totalling 330,000 signatures for five petitions altogether.

“These strongly supported petitions indicate that there is something very wrong with physical development in Penang,” she said.

She voiced concerns over conflict of interest, saying the government appeared to be defending the project delivery partner instead of acting in public interest.

Fishermen voice concern over their livelihood which they fear will be affected by the reclamation project as well as sand mining activities.

Mansor Yusof, chairman of the Fishermen’s Association of Perak, said the livelihood of nearly 9,000 fishermen would be affected by sand mining activities in the state.

He said this would also lead to an increase in the prices of fish such as Indian mackerel as mining activities would disrupt their natural habitat.

“We’re not protesting development, but we want the government to pay attention to the plight of the fishermen who are mostly poor,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nazri Ahmad, chairman of the Fishermen’s Association of Penang, urged the government to respect the rights of fishermen.

“If someone took away the trees and rivers of the Orang Asli, many people would be unhappy as they are their source of provision,” he said.

“In the same way, the ocean is our source of provision.”