04 Aug Penang South Islands, a young fisherman’s view
Published by The Malaysian Insight • 04/08/2021 • 07:00 pm
FOR three generations, my family work as fishermen at Teluk Kumbar, on the southern coast 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 view to English readers.
I began helping grandpa at sea when I was 14 years old. We wake up in the middle of the night to prepare our fishing gear and boat.
Often, we spend the whole night without sleep in our wooden hut, waiting for a favourable current and weather.
The scariest part of the job is to get caught in a storm at sea. We had one such encounter when I was 18. Our boat was so bombarded by strong waves that it almost broke in two.
The rain curtain was so thick that we couldn’t see the shoreline and were lost, but somehow, we managed to find our way back – God was merciful.
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 and that’s why I took a diploma course in electrical engineering.
However, a higher education doesn’t guarantee us jobs when there is no opportunity. After my graduation, I continued to go to the sea with my grandpa.
As a fisherman, I don’t have a stable income and payslip. That’s why I couldn’t commit to an insurance scheme or purchase a motorcycle. I didn’t even contribute to Socso or EPF.
The turning point came when my grandpa urged me to apply for a job in the Penang South Islands project after he learned that the Penang government will develop the three islands at Teluk Kumbar. I applied and was offered a position in the stakeholder engagement department.
I am 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. I had none of these before that.
After seeing the progress in my own life, my peers who grew up with me at Teluk Kumbar are now seeking employment in PSI too.
However, there aren’t many jobs currently as the reclamation work hasn’t started and we’re still waiting for the Department of Environment’s approval for the environmental management plan.
The delay of the approval could be due to a small group of fishermen led by Zakaria Ismail, who is trying to stop the project.
Zakaria said that he opposes the project because he wants the keep the area for his children to fish, but we all know in the fishing community that none of Zakaria’s four children work as fishermen.
No one knows the real reason why he opposes the project.
My family of three generations of fishermen have no issue with the PSI. My grandpa himself urged me to work for the project, seeing that there is better prospects 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 at Teluk Kumbar.
He believes that with more career options, the local community wouldn’t need to continue risking their life in the sea.
Moreover, the PSI will only reclaim a specific location and there are many other fishing grounds in the southern sea for fishermen like grandpa to work. – August 4, 2021.
* Nur Adam Anuar reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.