04 Aug Penang South Islands project ― A young fisherman’s view ― Nur Adam Anuar
Published by Malay Mail • 04/08/2021 • 02:20 pm
AUGUST 4 ― For three generations, my family worked as fishermen in Teluk Kumbar, at the south 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 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 times we spend the whole night without sleep at our wooden hut waiting for favourable water current and weather.
The scariest part in the job is getting caught in a storm in the middle of the sea. We had one such encounter when I was 18. Our boat was bombarded by strong waves that it almost broke in two. And the rain curtain was so thick that we couldn’t see the shoreline and we 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 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 sea with my grandpa.
As a fisherman, I don’t have a stable income and a payslip. That’s why I couldn’t commit to an insurance scheme or purchase a motorcycle. I didn’t even have Socso and EPF (KWSP) contributions.
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 state government will develop the three islands in 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 installment. I had none of these before.
After seeing the progress in my own life, my peers who grow up with me in Teluk Kumbar are now seeking employment in PSI too.
However, there aren’t many jobs currently as the reclamation work hasn’t started and are 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 with their lawyer from the NGO.
Zakaria said that he opposes the project because he wants the keep the PSI-area for his children to fish. But we, in the fishermen community, know that none of Zakaria’s four children work as fishermen. No one knows what is his real motive opposing the project.
A fisherman seen having a rest after coming back from the daily catch at Teluk Kumbar fisherman jetty, Penang. — Picture by KE Ooi
My family of three generations of fishermen has no issue with the PSI. My grandpa 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 thePSI 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 at sea.
Moreover, the PSI will only reclaim the land at specific locations and there are many other fishing areas in the southern sea for fishermen like grandpa to work at.