Ex-Penang exco questions fate of fishermen after 3-islands project

Fishermen protesting the reclamation of the three islands at the Esplanade in George Town last November.

GEORGE TOWN: Former Penang executive councillor Dr Afif Bahardin today said he was “upset and worried” the state government had signed an agreement over the three-islands project without fulfilling an important requirement in regards to compensation and other aid for fishermen.

He said as part of the requirement set by the authorities, the state and its project delivery partner were supposed to submit a “Social Impact Management Plan” so as to address the livelihood of fishermen and locals in the south who will be affected by the reclamation project.

In a statement, Afif said the plan included an ex-gratia package for the fishermen, construction of jetties and alternative employment opportunities for the fishermen affected by the project.

“Unfortunately, even before or after the signing of the agreement signed by the state government yesterday, I do not see any announcement in regards to the plan to help the locals and fishermen.

“I am upset and worried. I hope the state government can explain this issue further.”

Afif said when he was heading the state fishermen’s task force, he coordinated efforts to give ex-gratia and other aid for fishermen and locals.

He claimed the new executive councillor taking care of the task force was “no longer active” and not doing anything to address the concerns of the fishermen.

“The fishermen are worried about the implementation of the project, especially on fisheries in the Permatang Damar Laut, Sungai Batu, Teluk Kumbar and Gertak Sanggul areas, which would affect their livelihoods.”

On Wednesday, the Penang government signed a master agreement with SRS Consortium, a project delivery partner, to officially go ahead with the three artificial islands’ project, dubbed the Penang South Reclamation (PSR), along with two highways and a light rail transit project on the island.

The three-island project will reclaim 1,821ha of land which will later be sold to the highest bidder.

Last November, some 5,000 Penang fishermen hung up their nets to protest against the project claiming it was akin to “throwing sand in their rice bowls”.

They claimed that the project would cut down marine life in the long run and affect their livelihoods.

A survey last year found 94.5% of fishermen in the south of the island were against the creation of the three islands.

However, the survey also found that members of the business community, within a 6km radius of the three islands, were overwhelmingly supportive of the reclamation project, saying it would boost the economy.

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

FMT has contacted the chief minister’s office for comment on Afif’s comments.

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