Exco man gives figures to prove the ‘impossible’

Penang executive councillor Dr Afif Bahardin (left) at a press conference in George Town today.

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang state executive councillor has defended his claim of having more than 4,000 engagements with fishermen in the past four years, after criticism that it was theoretically impossible.

Dr Afif Bahardin provided a breakdown on how the figure of 4,733 “engagement sessions” were derived.

Yesterday, an activist said Afif’s figure was mathematically implausible, amounting to more than an average of 3.25 sessions every day for 1,460 days straight

“Yes, it is 4,733 engagements over the past four years and I stand by it,” he said at a press conference with Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today.

“Look, my math is not that bad and I think I am qualified enough to read professional reports.

Of the 4,733 engagements, briefings accounted for 1,677 sessions; one-to-one engagements 1,136; Environmental Impact Assessment public dialogues 853; EIA and Social Impact Assessments dialogues 583 and Fishery Impact Assessment dialogues 484.

His initial statement about 4,733 engagements over four years was given in a Tweet, which was challenged by Khoo Salma Nasution, an activist with the Penang Tolak Tambak ad-hoc group of concerned fishermen affected by a massive proposed reclamation project to create three man-made islands off southern Penang Island.

Khoo Salma said the 4,733 engagements were “highly improbable” and most likely impossible based on simple mathematics and logic. “To have conducted 4,733 sessions in a span of four years would require an average of 3.25 sessions on a daily basis for 1,460 days straight, including weekends and public holidays.”

Fishermen from Penang and Perak recently carried out a protest outside Parliament House against the three-island project, saying it would affect their livelihoods.

The Perak fishermen were concerned about sand mining from their coast. The Penang government said it would not affect them as mining would be carried out 20 nautical miles away from the coast.

Chow has assured Penang fishermen that they would be taken care of through compensation and ex gratia payments and priority in obtaining government homes and jobs at the reclamation site.

He also said he respects their objections and would continue to hear them out and look into their compensation proposals.

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

The land will be auctioned to finance the proposed RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan to build highways and light rail transit lines over the next 20 to 30 years.