We told CM we want reclamation project axed, say Penang fishermen

Fishermen protest against the Penang South Reclamation project at a recent gathering in Kuala Lumpur.

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Fisherman’s Association today said it had “unanimously” objected to the reclamation of three islands along the southern coast, against the state government’s claim that they had agreed to the project.

Its chairman Nazri Aziz said the fishermen had relayed their stand to Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and state executive councillor Dr Afif Bahardin in a meeting on May 31, as well as in a memorandum which was handed over to them.

“It was a unanimous decision by the fishermen in wanting the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project to be cancelled,” he said in a press conference last night.

“We wrote to the CM listing the weaknesses in the environmental impact report for the PSR. But we also said if the PSR continues, we want a transformation plan, not compensation.”

Earlier this week, Chow said he respected the fishermen’s objection to the project, adding that they had asked for boats instead of monetary compensation, among others.

Chow said their request for boats was tacit confirmation that the reclamation would not affect their livelihoods, as claimed by pressure groups.

However, Nazri said Chow had misinterpreted what was discussed during the meeting, and had portrayed the fishermen as merely seeking compensation.

“It is an insult to fishermen and an outright denial of our right to voice out.”

He added that the group, which represents some 5,000 fishermen in the state, would continue its efforts to stop the reclamation project.

Last week, Chow said he had received a proposal from the association during the meeting on May 31, in which the fishermen had asked for boats, a temporary jetty and an ex gratia payment for registered fishermen.

“They have asked for boats, which is an admission that fishing can continue while the project is being carried out.

“Furthermore, there are many pathways available for fishermen to use while the reclamation is ongoing, without having to take the long route to sea,” he said.

Responding to the group’s claim today, Chow told FMT that the state’s stand on the fishermen’s objections had not changed, and that it remains respectful of their opinions.

“We also acknowledge that the association submitted its demand for a transformation plan, comprising a request for boats for them to carry on with their livelihoods and for priority in buying low-medium cost government housing.

“The Penang government’s stand has always been to begin negotiations with the association only when the environment study has been approved,” he said.

On Tuesday, Chow said the Department of Environment had approved the environment study in question, allowing the reclamation of the three islands with 72 conditions.

Under the project, three islands measuring 4,500 acres will be created and sold off to finance transportation projects in the state worth RM46 billion, including an LRT line which was recently given approval.