When position of trusteeship is abused by politicians

THE few persons who form the Penang state government are acting as if they own the Teluk Kumbar bay, the richest seafood-producing area in this part of the country.

They look upon the fishermen who fish there as trespassers or intruders standing in the way of developers whose grand plans to turn the bay into another “Dubai Marina”, a playground for the rich and filthy rich, and even outdo Dubai, have been approved by them. They conveniently forget that they are but merely trustees of all public property, be it the environment, natural assets or money collected from the public. They own nothing. They are entrusted to manage all these like prudent businessmen would manage their businesses.

But these few persons act like they have been endowed with special abilities to know more and better than anybody else about things that are not within their own first-hand knowledge. They act as though being elected politicians they have acquired the status of being infallible in all things and people must just accept their decisions without question.

Developers looking for ways to make money in Penang came up with the idea of “creating” three man-made islands in the south of Penang island, the Teluk Kumbar bay. The government fell head over heels in love with the plan as if the 4,500 acres (1,820ha) of the rich fishing grounds were private property.

These 4,500 acres of the shallow (about 3.5m deep) and sheltered sea is a gift of nature. It is not just a fishing area, as if the fish caught here are just taking a swim or passing through on their way elsewhere and get caught in the nets cast by the fishermen. Far from it.

This area is the home and breeding grounds of the fish. Here is found all that is required to breed fish in abundance – the corals around the islands of Pulau Kendi and Pulau Rimau, which lie very close to the boundary of the reclamation area. There is abundance of seagrass for the fish, which acts as a sanctuary and as a nursery for their young.

This fact, that these 4,500 acres of the shallow sea are the breeding grounds of the fish, is totally ignored by the government.

Developers, of course, do not care about it. But hasn’t the government, which is the trustee of this rich fish breeding ground, a moral and even legal duty to preserve it for posterity?

Developers and even the government cannot, just cannot, create a similar fish breeding ground that will keep on producing fish for the hundreds of thousands of consumers who depend on fish protein. It is not just the fishermen who are impacted, but hundreds of thousands of fish-eating consumers.

So, isn’t the government actually and deliberately destroying the habitat of the fish, which supplies protein to hundreds of thousands of people?

Telling the fishermen to go and fish in deeper sea beyond the reclamation area while the rich fish breeding grounds are destroyed does not make sense, does it?

This speaks volumes of the government’s disregard for food security (while talking about it) for the future generations in a world where fresh food supplies are already so strained.

Once destroyed, the fish breeding ground cannot be recreated elsewhere. So, the logical thing is to swallow pride, ego and so on, and abandon the plan to create a marina to outdo Dubai Marina. 
Hundreds of thousands of Penangites need a daily, continuous supply of seafood protein, not shiny, glittering buildings for the pleasure and money-making by a few already filthy rich people.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people or for the rich developers? – April 19, 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.

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