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For some fishermen, Penang reclamation holds key to better life

For some fishermen, Penang reclamation holds key to better life

Published by The Vibes • 23/06/2021 • 07:00 am

The Penang government has promised compensation to fishermen affected by the PSI reclamation, though some say they have yet to receive payment. – Bernama pic, June 23, 2021

GEORGE TOWN – Not all members of the fishing community in Teluk Kumbar are dead set against the Penang South Islands (PSI) project, as they see their future entwined with it.


Proponents of PSI want to see development in their respective areas, while holding the state government to its word on compensation.


Veteran fisherman Idris Ismail, 66, said he hopes to see his village become modern, meeting the needs of future generations.


Giving the example of Japan, he said the fishermen there are equipped with modern tools.


“I don’t see anything wrong with developing the area. The reclamation is in preparation for the future, especially the state’s. Otherwise, we will have a shortage of land for residential and commercial development.”


Idris, who has three wives and 14 children, said although the reclamation is near his village, he sees PSI as a relief to the local fishing community, which has faced continuous financial problems.


He said he joined his father on a fishing trip when he was 13, and has been doing it since.

Long-time fisherman Idris Ismail says the tools of the trade cost a pretty penny. – The Vibes pic, June 23, 2021

“I earn between RM7,000 and RM8,000 a month, or an average of RM4,000 to RM5,000 a month, but that involves a lot of hard work. It is a tough job, and one needs to be strong and healthy to go to sea,” Idris, who survived the 2004 tsunami, told The Vibes in the Gertak Sanggul fishing village yesterday.


“I fully support the reclamation project. I don’t see it as an obstacle to the fishing community, or that it will cause damage to the environment.”


He said the reclamation works will not affect their daily catch, as the project owners have promised to provide them with new boats, nets and engines.


It is expensive to invest in fishing nowadays, he said.


“An 8m boat costs RM20,000, an engine costs RM20,000, and fishing nets cost RM7,000 to RM10,000. A better-quality boat and equipment would cost more than RM100,000.”

The provision of modern equipment may see more youth interested in the fishing trade, says Nur Adam Ifwat Anuar. – The Vibes pic, June 23, 2021

Idris’ grandson, Nur Adam Ifwat Anuar, 23, supports the project as well, for similar reasons.


“I feel it’s okay to develop the area, as long as the fishing village environment is sustained, and the livelihood of the fishermen guaranteed. Why oppose the project when the government has promised to take care of the community’s livelihood?


“I feel that most of the youngsters in the community are not interested in the fishing trade, but we can encourage them if there’s modern equipment.”


Shamsar Hashim, who has been a fisherman for 15 years, fully supports the reclamation, saying it has given hope to locals.


The 43-year-old said he, too, is from a fishing family, with many of his relatives in the trade.


“I fully support the reclamation project as it has given hope to our people. Fishermen’s lives will be uplifted with modern fishing equipment.


“Those opposing the project are not directly involved in the trade, and many are being instigated by people outside the fishing industry. A fisherman’s life is uncertain; we go to sea, and we aren’t sure what we’ll come back with. No fixed income, no insurance coverage, and no guarantees for our families.”

Shamsar Hashim, a fisherman for 15 years, says the reclamation project has ‘given hope to our people’. – The Vibes pic, June 23, 2021

Shamsar, who is employed by the project’s main contractor, SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, as an information officer, said he now has Employees Provident Fund and Social Security Organisation contributions, and other benefits including medical.


“However, I still join my nephews, who are fishermen, at night, and during my leave and days off, as my love for fishing runs deep.


“I can still walk to the shore when the reclamation project is over, as it does not close the coastline. Why should I object to a project that is expected to bring development to the state? I am happy that I am not influenced by the group opposed to it.”


Muhammad Dannie Mohd Rosli, from Permatang Damar Laut, said he supports the three-island project as it will ensure a better future for locals.


The 26-year-old, who first went fishing with his mother when he was 8, said he welcomes PSI as it is sustainable and contributes to fishermen’s livelihood.


“Some days, we make only RM50 from our catch. What can you do with that amount? That’s only enough to pay for fuel for one boat. No one comes to our aid despite our difficulties.


“The development will bring a lot of job opportunities, especially for our family members who are not interested in fishing.”

Muhammad Dannie Mohd Rosli welcomes PSI as it is sustainable and contributes to the fishing community’s livelihood. – The Vibes pic, June 23, 2021

Late last month, The Vibes reported that the compensation promised to Gertak Sanggul fishermen in March had yet to materialise despite them having agreed to the reclamation.


Fearing repercussions, a fisherman, who requested anonymity, said a group of them visited the SRS Consortium office, but were told that the company did not receive any directive on the 75% compensation payment.


The fishermen received their first payment of RM500 early in the year.


Farida-Hani M. Yacob, head of administration and integrity at Penang Infrastructure Corp, said there is no delay, as the ex gratia is to be disbursed in three stages, with the second payment subject to the project’s environmental management plan (EMP) being approved.


“The earlier announced dates of disbursement for the second (March 2021) and third (January 2022) stages were estimated based on the expectation of getting EMP approval at the time of the announcement.”


According to the social impact management plan, fishermen in Permatang Damar Laut, Sg Batu, Teluk Kumbar and Gertak Sanggul would receive their first payment of RM500 each in February.


Subject to EMP approval, 75% of the payment, totalling RM14,500, was supposed to be released in March, and another 25%, totalling RM5,000, in January next year. – The Vibes, June 23, 2021

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