PENANG Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, who is a journalist by training, is playing “wayang kulit” (shadow play) with fishermen over the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project, with his announcement that the fishing community is willing to “move on” if the project is approved.
He is playing with words to confuse some people, to get the sympathy and approval of others, and to sway the federal authorities to support him and approve PSR.
Those approving of his “compensation” story are his party people and the developers who mooted the grand idea of dumping mountains of sand into fish breeding areas in the sea, which will destroy rich fishing grounds – as confirmed by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry – and the supply of seafood for Penangites. In other words, destroying a nature-given source of food so that developers can enjoy the spoils. Food security is not of any concern to the chief minister and his executive council.
I live in the south of the island, and often bump into fishermen. Not one of them has expressed readiness to “move on” if the compensation is “right”, as is being bandied about by the chief minister and exco Dr Afif Bahardin.
My hunch is that the Penang government is jittery about not getting the final, federal nod for the project to reclaim three islands with a combined area of 1,820ha – that’s almost as big as Batu Kawan. Hence, it has embarked on this psychological onslaught in the belief that when a lie is repeated enough times, people will believe it as the truth. The objective of this “wayang kulit” is to sow in the minds of the majority of unthinking people that the fishermen are the villains hindering the “development” of Penang.
Such an objective is very mischievous, as these fishermen are the guardians of the rich fishing grounds (ask the Agriculture Ministry about this). Their concern is not just their own livelihood, but also the food security – the supply of cheap protein – of present and future generations of Penangites.
The federal government must not get played by this psychological “wayang kulit”. It should have its own direct communication with the fishermen to determine whether there is truth to the hollow-sounding claim that the community is willing to “move on”.
If a mere 2% are willing to “move on”, does it legitimise riding roughshod over the remaining 98%, shouting that “fishermen” have agreed to “move on”?
PSR is one project that the federal government must reject. There is no need to spend more than RM40 billion to move people short distances on Penang Island. There are much cheaper alternatives.
So, what is the agenda behind the aggressive push to destroy the sea that helps feed Penangites? – October 1, 2019.
* Ravinder Singh reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.