THE Penang government is playing “wayang kulit” (shadow play) about the fishermen affected by the Penang South Reclamation project with its latest announcement that the fishermen are willing to “move on” if the project is finally approved.
Key officials are playing with words to confuse some people, to get the sympathy and approval of others and to sway the federal authorities to support the proposed project and approve it.
Those approving the “compensation” story are supporters and developers, who mooted the grand idea of dumping mountains of sand into the fish breeding area of the sea and destroying the rich fishing ground (as confirmed by the Ministry of Agriculture) and the supply of fresh fish and other seafood to Penangites. Food security is not of any concern to proponents.
I live in the south of the island and often bump into some fishermen.
Not one of them has said they are ready to “move on” if the compensation is “right” as it is being bandied about by proponents.
My hunch is that the state government is jittery that it will not get the final federal approval for the project to reclaim the three islands with an area of 4,500 acres – that’s almost as big as Batu Kawan.
Hence it has embarked on this psychological onslaught. The objective of the “wayang kulit” is to sow in the minds of the majority of unthinking people that the fishermen are hindering the “development” of Penang.
The fishermen are the guardians of the rich fishing ground (ask the Ministry of Agriculture).
Their concern is not just their own livelihood, but food security (the supply of cheap protein) for the present and future generations of Penangites.
The federal government must not get played up by this psychological “wayang kulit”.
It should have its own direct communication with the fishermen to determine the truth of the claims about the fishermen’s willingness to “move on”.
If a mere 2% are willing to “move on”, does it legitimise riding roughshod over the other 98% shouting that “fishermen” have agreed to “move on”?
This is one project that the federal government must reject. There is no need to spend over RM40 billion to move people short distances on Penang Island.
There are much cheaper alternatives. So what is the agenda behind the aggressiveness to destroy the sea that feeds Penangites’ daily needs for fish and other seafood?