THIS may sound vulgar to some but no offence is meant to anyone. If an analogy has to be made to bring out the subtle similarity between two different looking things, then it needs to illustrate the reality in easily understood terms, even if they be “vulgar”. No apologies for that for if the reality must be brought to the attention of some, (in this case the Penang government), then it is fair language.
When someone grabs a young, helpless lady, dresses her up in the latest attractive clothes and perfumes and advertises her for people with the money to come and enjoy her, it is prostitution. Such an act is a crime, even though it may be justified by the state as bringing economic growth to a place as money is being brought into that place and spent by some and earned by others, simply because the state is also getting a “cut” in the form of various taxes and fees.
But when a state does the same by grabbing some natural assets which also have a tremendous heritage value to the local people and hand them over to developers who rub shoulders with state leaders for the creation of playgrounds for the rich (as if man can improve on God’s work of creation!) , the act is named “Development” - to attract tourists (mainly foreign) and industrialists to set up factories and exploit cheap labour. Housing for the ordinary people is a fallacy as how many of them can afford houses on reclaimed land – e.g. in the Queens Bay area of Penang?
These playgrounds for tourists will become stale after a short period (surely they won’t be attractive for the next 100 years!). The so-called foreign direct investments are mercenaries who are not coming to do charity work, but to get the maximum benefits for making money as cheaply as they can. When it is no longer so profitable to operate here, they pack up and go to greener pastures. This has been happening. Factories have closed down in Penang and moved elsewhere.
But the Penang government is hell bent on destroying for its grandiose PSR (Penang South Reclamation) a flourishing inshore fishing industry that not only provides a livelihood for the 5,000 fisherman and their families, but is also a source of cheap protein for tens of thousands of consumers. Is food security for the future generations not of any concern to the Penang government?
That the inshore fishing industry here is a flourishing industry, a rich source of marine life, is well acknowledged by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture which has confirmed that the reclamation project will destroy the rich fishing ground irreplaceably.
So who are the leaders of the Penang government, who have no knowledge of fishing, let alone first-hand experience of fishing, to override the Ministry of Agriculture, to play “creator”?
Who are these leaders to say that their PSR project is for the benefit of the fishermen as they will have jobs in factories on land and no longer have to risk their lives at sea? The fishermen never pleaded with the Penang government that they want to trade fishing with work in factories! So the Penang government should not pull a fast one on Penang people! The continuous supply of fresh fish and other seafood should be of paramount importance, not ringgit from tourists and factories. The need for food is increasing and the Penang government should not turn a blind eye to this hard fact. It must not be so selfish as to just think of ways to mesmerise the ordinary, simple minded people for their votes. Most of them don’t have the money to enjoy the “paradises” to be created on the reclaimed fishing grounds!
Furthermore, can the Penang government give any guarantee that the playgrounds of the rich in the PSR project will be as good (as they make it out to be) after 100 or more years? Is the long term future of Penang of no concern to the Penang government? Even if the Penang government gives such a guarantee, it won’t be worth the paper it is written on as the persons giving the guarantee will no longer be around or in power. The interests of the present-day politicians are very short term - how to enjoy the perks of their office and to remain in office as long as they can!
Inshore fishing is a very highly skilled profession that has been developed over the past centuries, and is a vital cog in the fresh food supply chain, contrary to what the Penang government wants the public to believe – that it is not a worthwhile activity as it does not bring in as much money as tourism and factories! Such money-counting is foolish economics to say the least!
The federal government should not allow the Penang government to prostitute the fishing grounds in the south of Penang island. A thriving inshore fishing industry, developed over hundreds of years, and that provides cheap protein to tens of thousands of people daily, is a living heritage that must be preserved for posterity for the food that it supplies to so many people.
It is a bluff for the Penang government to say that the fishermen have agreed to the PSR project and are looking forward to “compensation”. As far as I know (I have lived, and still do, within walking distance of fishing areas) the fishermen do not want to hear about “compensation”. They want to carry on their age-old, highly skilled profession. Any Penang government official who thinks the fishermen are unskilled workers who don’t contribute “significantly” to the state economy, and so looks down on them, please take one of their fishing boats out in the choppy seas single-handedly and come back in one piece with a catch of one or two kilos of any seafood.
Money is not the be-all and end-all of economics. The value of the contribution of these fishermen cannot be measured in terms of money. Theirs is a labour of love, to harvest cheap, God-given food for society while earning a living for themselves. It should be a crime to destroy this source of food. The PSR is literally throwing sand into their rice bowls, and also that of tens of thousands of sea food consumers.
Stop the prostitution of the Penang South sea. – January 31, 2021.
* 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.