05 Aug Give Penang South Islands a chance
Published by New Straits Times • 05/08/2021 • 06:36 pm
Fishing boats at Gertak Sanggul, Teluk Kumbar. -NSTP file pic
LETTERS: For three generations my family worked as fishermen at Teluk Kumbar, in the southern part of Penang island.
I just want to share my view about the Penang South Islands (PSI) project as a young fisherman who grew up here.
I’m not good with the English language and have asked my friends to help translate this article so that I can also share my views with English readers.
I began helping my grandfather when I was 14 years old. We wake up in the middle of the night to prepare our fishing gear and boat. Often times we spend the whole night without sleep at our wooden hut waiting for favourable water current and weather.
The scariest part of the job is to get caught in a storm in the middle of the sea. We had one such encounter when I was 18. Our boat was struck by strong waves that it almost broke in two. And the rain was so heavy that we couldn’t see the shoreline. Somehow, we managed to find our way back.
That experience was traumatising, but we had to continue to go to the sea because we had to eat. That was our life as fishermen.
That’s why many fishermen want their children to pursue higher education so that they will have more career options. That’s why I took a diploma course in electrical engineering.
However, having higher education doesn’t guarantee us jobs when there is no opportunity. After my graduation, I continued to go to the sea with my grandfather.
As a fisherman, I don’t have a stable income or payslip. That’s why I couldn’t commit to an insurance scheme or purchase a motorcycle. I didn’t even have Socso and EPF contribution.
The turning point came when my grandfather urged me to apply for a job in the Penang South Islands project after he learned that the Penang State Government will develop the three islands at Teluk Kumbar. I applied and was offered a position in the stakeholder engagement department.
I’m now 23 and have been working in the PSI project for more than a year. The job has provided me with a stable income and I have all the staff benefits such as insurance coverage, Socso, and EPF savings.
With payslips, I can now purchase a motorcycle through monthly instalment. After seeing the progress in my own life, my peers who grew up with me in Teluk Kumbar are now seeking employment in PSI too.
However, there aren’t many jobs currently as the reclamation works have not started, pending approval from the Department of Environment for its environmental management plan.
A small group of fishermen is trying to stop the project with their lawyer from the NGO. But, my family of three generations of fishermen have no issue with the PSI. My grandfather himself urged me to work for the project, seeing that there is more prospect and job security for me.
He is now 66 years old. After being a fisherman all his life, he can see that PSI will bring development into the area and generate plenty of jobs for his children and grandchildren and other fishermen’s children and grandchildren in Teluk Kumbar.
He believes that with more career options, the local community wouldn’t need to continue risking their lives out at sea. Moreover, the PSI will only reclaim a specific location and there are many other fishing grounds in the southern sea for fishermen to work in.