4,000 meetings with fishermen? Impossible, says activist

Activist Khoo Salma has urged executive councillor Dr Afif Bahardin to reveal details of the meetings.

GEORGE TOWN: An activist defending the rights of coastal fishermen affected by Penang’s three islands project today questioned a state official’s claim of having held 4,000-odd “meet the fishermen” sessions.

Khoo Salma, of ad-hoc group against the reclamation project, Penang Tolak Tambak, said state executive councillor Dr Afif Bahardin had claimed that a total of 4,733 engagement sessions with the fishermen had been held since 2016.

“It is highly improbable and most likely impossible that his claim is true, based on simple mathematics and logic.

“To have conducted 4,733 sessions in a span of 4 years would require an average of 3.25 sessions on a daily basis for 1,460 days straight, including weekends and public holidays. As a matter of public record, we have not heard of any government agency nor any Penang state executive councillor conducting such a marathon of engagement sessions,” she said in a statement.

Khoo, who is also Penang Forum’s steering committee member, said that in the public interest Dr Afif should reveal the details of all the 4,733 meetings.

“We urge Afif to remember and take to heart Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s advice that statistics should be based on facts and not ‘plucked from the sky’. It would be a disgrace if a senior member of the Penang state government such as Afif had actually done what CM Chow had advised other parties not to do.

“We cannot allow such blatant claims to be used as justification by the state government to bulldoze through the Penang South Reclamation and to disregard the concerns and opposition by various parties, including local fishermen, urban Penangites and civil society,” she said.

The proposed project, formally known as the Penang South Reclamation, is to create three man-made islands over 17 sq km in the sea off the coast of Permatang Damar Laut, near Bayan Lepas, in the south. The islands will cover 9.3 sq km, 4.45 sq km and 3.23 sq km respectively.

The reclaimed land will belong to the Penang government but will be auctioned to the highest bidders to finance the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan, under which highways and light rail transit lines will be built over the next 20 to 30 years.

Transport regulators have announced that a 30km LRT line from George Town to Bayan Lepas airport has been given the nod.

The PTMP will be pursued by SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between Gamuda Bhd and Penang real estate development firms Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd.

FMT has contacted Afif for comment and is awaiting his reply.