Show us the fishermen supporting Penang South Reclamation

MOHD Nasarudin Sultan is way off the mark when he says that Ravinder Singh “doesn’t seem to know how difficult it is to live as a fisherman”. He writes as though he is doing the fishermen a great favour to get them off the sea to “safer” jobs on the land!

He illustrates this giving his experience of being shipwrecked and almost losing his life, “floating in the open sea for hours, praying in the dark to be rescued”. The picture he paints is that fishing is a very dangerous, worthless job which no one should have to do for a living. 

Well, like many other jobs that require skill and physical strength, it all depends on the grit of the individual. If he is weak-willed and hearted, being a fisherman is surely not for him. He will never  make it even with all the subsidies of free boats, nets and outboard engines.

Has Nasarudin not heard of aircraft pilots who crash land, and are up flying again? Of grand prix drivers who smash their high powered cars and break bones, then when recovered they are on the circuit again? Or, take the case of a kampung boy learning how to cycle. He falls, bleeds at the knees and elbows, picks up the cycle and up he jumps again till he masters the skill.

It is a spoilt child, upon finding something difficult to do, who throws tantrums and refuses to do it again. How will such a child learn to cycle, or do some other work if he does not have the minat/azam?

Nasarudin claims that fishermen in the South of Penang Island want development, want the huge reclamation project to be carried out so that they can throw their nets away (as fishing is a life threatening occupation!) and find safe jobs on the newly created land.

It is therefore very strange that these pro-reclamation fishermen are not showing themselves. They have not held one public meeting to explain their stand, unlike the anti-reclamation fisherfolk, under the chairmanship of Nazri Ahmad (Penang Fishermen’s Association chairman) who have been very actively engaging with the public to explain their reasons for rejecting the PSR project.

The fishermen supporting the PSR project should start going on road-shows to explain their side. Nasarudin could provide the leadership they are lacking. I will attend their road show, just as I have attended Nazri Ahmad’s events. I will be at Nazri’s forthcoming event on November 4 at the Esplanade in Penang.

I am a “budak kampung nelayan” from Batu Maung and am still living in this area. I have rowed fishing sampans and gone on trawler boats. Thus having lived among the fishermen for over 7 decades, I understand them well. No fisherman I have been with has complained of fishing being a “difficult job” and wanting to switch to a job on land. They enjoy their work. They feel a sense of pride in being suppliers of fresh fish to Penangites. They have dignity and self-esteem. 

Climate change is not a fantasy. It is acknowledged by world scientists as very real. It will affect food producing lands and seas. Governments must therefore prioritise food security over “development” that destroys food producing lands and seas.

I therefore reiterate that the federal government must give priority to the greater interests of the people for food and food security for the future generations and firmly, conscientiously, reject the PSR project. – October 3, 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.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.