A former fisherman advising other fishermen to follow him…

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Ravinder Singh takes a critical look at a recent “NGO” talk in support of a huge reclamation project off the southern coast of Penang Island.

Syabas to the fishermen who have the guts to face off the Penang government on the Penang South Reclamation, and shame on those who are supporting it but don’t have the guts to show their faces.

At a recent talk on “Penang’s Future: New Islands?” organised by a pro-reclamation group, Anak Pinang, a former fisherman likened the state government to a “parent” who loves his children and knows what is best for them! Wow, what a comparison!

Firstly, children do not elect their parents through the ballot box. So the comparison falls flat.

Secondly, ‘loving parents’ don’t buy things for their children and make the children pay (through their noses, at that) for those things. Where will the children get the money to pay?

Thirdly, they don’t give or make things for their children that would harm them physically, mentally, emotionally or in any other way.

Fourthly, some mature, thinking children will not blindly and meekly go along with the bad decisions of their parents; some bolder ones may have the guts to point out their parents’ mistakes.

The government is elected by a majority of voters who take the pre-election promises of the politicians in good faith.

But what concerned Penangites are seeing is that those promises have been thrown into the gutter after the election was won by a huge majority.

Today, it would seem that the chief minister has taken to speaking for and backing developers’ (and contractors’) projects that will harm the environment.

The organisers of the talk are believed to be either aspiring politicians or linked to the real estate sector. So they may have a personal interest in fighting for the project or perhaps they consider themselves as potential candidates in the next elections.

On the other hand, NGO members speaking out against the Penang Southern Reclamation project are non-political and not connected to big business interests. They are independent voices without any personal interest.

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Furthermore, they have in their ranks professionals and retired experts in environmental and other areas. Their objections are evidence-based, not based on emotion or personal interests. Their objections are widely supported by academics and experts.

What the fishermen and the NGOs are strongly objecting to – the destruction of a rich fisheries area – has been confirmed by the federal Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry.

Are the organisers of the talk denying this? Why are they not attacking this ministry for some “false perception” it is having?

How many fishermen who support the reclamation project have been shown to the public (“Show us the fishermen supporting Penang South Reclamation”)?

The pathetic reason given is that they are afraid of coming forward as they are getting cash benefits and are afraid of losing them. This is a lame excuse as hardly any fishermen support the project.

When Penangites elected this government, they did not give it a blank cheque. It was just like shareholders electing a board of directors. If some company directors fall out of line, will the shareholders still keep them or throw them out?

The Penang state government is a “board of directors” elected by Penangites to manage Penang. The same rules of good governance apply to them as to the directors of private companies. If they are making bad decisions or misusing their authority, the shareholders (the voters) not only have a right to tell them off but also to vote them out.

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