5,000 Penang fishermen to hang up nets on Nov 4

GEORGE TOWN: Thousands of fishermen will stop fishing for a day on Nov 4 in protest against the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project, which they say is throwing sand into their rice bowls.

Penang Fishermen’s Association chairman Nazri Ahmad said the Hari Solidariti Nelayan would essentially be a labour strike in defence of the rights of fishermen in the state.

The PSR is commonly known as the three-island project.

Nazri told FMT the protest would culminate at Padang Kota, where the estimated 5,000 fishermen from Penang would be joined by others from Kedah and Perak.

“We are not scientists or thinkers, but we know things happen for the worse when you disturb the waters,” he said.

“And we are tired of hearing the word ‘stakeholders’. We know it refers more often than not to businesses, not the fishermen.

“So come Nov 4, we’ll come out in full force and disrupt the supply chain by not going to sea for one day.

“It is to show people out there what it’s like when there is nowhere for us to fish. There’ll be no fish on your plates.

“Reclamation destroys not only the environment. It destroys marine life.”

Proponents of the PSR project found in a recent survey that 94.5% of fishermen in the south of the island are against the creation of the three islands.

However, the survey covered the larger Bayan Lepas area and the respondents included members of the business community within a 6-kilometre radius of the three islands. The businessmen gave overwhelming support for the PSR, with most saying it would boost the economy.

Teluk Kumbar fishermen protesting against the Penang South Reclamation project in March.

Supporting the fishermen’s strike, Consumers’ Association of Penang president Mohideen Abdul Kader called for a national movement against land reclamation, saying there was a danger that the country’s fishing communities would be wiped out.

“They say they need more land, but there are thousands of acres on the mainland,” he said. “Why do this to our fishing community?”

The PSR is a state government initiative to finance the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan through reclamation covering a total of 4,000 acres off Permatang Damar Laut.

The project will be undertaken 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.

Gamuda has said the PSR would one day rival Singapore’s Marina Bay.

The project owners, the Penang government, has promised to take into account all the concerns of fishermen.

Dr Afif Bahardin, the state executive councillor who heads a task force to engage with fishermen, said recently that many of the items on their wish list had been taken into account and that these included the building of a jetty and their training in new skills.