The chairperson of Penang Sustainable Environment Association, Tan Chen Tat, in his letter “PSR – balance environmental protection with social protection” (Malaysiakini, 3 June) tries to convince the public that the Penang South Reclamation project must go on at all costs, as the very survival of Penangites depends on the jobs that will be created during construction and after that in the industries to be set up on the three reclaimed islands.
He does not give any figures to support his claims. What is common knowledge is that almost all major construction jobs are largely carried out by foreign labour. Similarly, many jobs in factories are carried out by foreign workers.
Undeniably, Penang is home to a large number of foreign workers. Thus it is misleading of him to suggest that Penangites (the real anak Pulau Pinang) will not have construction and factory jobs if the reclamation project is cancelled. I pray the Federal authorities will cancel it!
None of the genuine fishermen affected are keen on the “glamorous”, non-permanent jobs on land. They strongly feel a moral sense of duty to keep putting fresh marine-caught seafood, which provides cheap protein, on the tables of Penangites. It is a noble job that provides a continuous supply of seafood and preserves the environment at the same time. It is the best self-sustaining and environment friendly industry in Penang.
Why are the inshore fishermen being looked down upon as ‘insignificant’ people and being bullied and hounded to submit to developers’ wishes? Various well-informed professional, independent parties have unequivocally stated that the reclamation project will permanently destroy a very rich seafood-breeding and producing area.
Is long-term food security for the common people no concern of the government? As for the developers, of course it is not their concern – which is money! But the state takes the advice of its pseudo-‘experts’ – the developers – and even stretches the rules for them, which has resulted in haphazard development in the state.
I have only one question to ask the chairman of the Penang Sustainable Environment Association: with so much land still available on mainland Penang, which includes Batu Kawan, for all the construction work and setting up of factories that he talks about, why is the state government hell bent on doing exactly that in the bay of Teluk Kumbar? This bay, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and other experts, is a very rich seafood-breeding and producing area, and it will be permanently destroyed by the reclamation.
Why can’t all that construction work to provide jobs (mostly to foreigners) and factory jobs, also mostly to foreigners, be done in Batu Kawan and other ready available land in Province Wellesley? Transport from Batu Kawan to the island is a breeze using the second bridge, which will lead directly to the Penang Airport second cargo terminal in Batu Maung.
Why the arrogant stubbornness to destroy the rich fish breeding grounds in the bay of Teluk Kumbar and so much secrecy around the bloated costs of the project and the award of the contracts, if there is nothing to hide? What is the ‘udang sebalik batu’ of this grandiose project under the blanket of ‘development’?