GEORGE TOWN, July 12 — The Penang government is arranging a meeting in September to meet and offer assistance to local fishermen affected by three man-made islands plan.
Dr Afif Bahardin, in charge of agriculture and agro-based industries, said a state task force will meet the Penang Fishermen’s Association chairman Nazri Ahmad to discuss their concerns and possible compensation.
“This task force will discuss the model of ex-gratia we can consider for the affected fishermen,” he said in a joint press conference with Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow here.
Dr Afif said the task force was formed several years ago and have been discussing the compensation packages for affected fishermen.
Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Sim Tze Tzin, who is also Bayan Baru MP, and Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, who is also Balik Pulau MP, are both in the task force that also includes two deputy ministers, two other assemblymen along with the district officer and representatives from the Fisheries Development Authority and SRS Consortium.
Earlier in the news conference, Chow gave an assurance that the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) will not affect any existing residential area or fishing villages.
“All reclamation works will be conducted in the sea so fishing villages will not be torn down or evicted, they can remain there,” he said.
He said some fishermen saw an opportunity to ask for low cost housing or rent-to-own units due to the PSR and had included this in their memorandum seeking compensation from the state over the project.
However, he said the task force will look at all requests and demands submitted by the fishermen and consider the options.
“We will continue to discuss and negotiate with the fishermen on their demands,” he said.
Chow said the Penang Fishermen’s Association had a closed-door meeting with him and Dr Afif on May 31.
“The representative from the association had presented a proposal for their claims with regards to the project and they were proposing that ex-gratia be given to affected fishermen in Teluk Tempoyak, Batu Maung, Seri Jerejak and Pulau Betong,” he said.
He said a summary of the proposed ex-gratia was that each boat owner be given a fisherman transformation boat funded by the state and that each be given options to buy low cost housing units or rent-to-own units.
“They also ask that crew members be given an option to buy low-cost housing units or rent-to-own units,” he said.
He added that the fishermen had requested that a temporary jetty be built for fishermen during the construction period of the PSR.
He said the jetty will be safety compliant and its design will be based on feedback from fishermen and through consultation with the Fisheries Development Authority.
Chow pointed out that the fact the fishermen had asked from compensation in the form of modernised boats and housing units meant that they can still continue fishing activities after PSR.
“They understood that even when the project is implemented, they can still go out to fish, it is just that they will have to travel further from their current location,” he said.
He stressed that the state will continue to engage and discuss the issue of compensation with the affected fishermen.
Yesterday, a group of fishermen and non-governmental organisations marched to Parliament and held a peaceful demonstration opposing the PSR.
The groups handed a memorandum to the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and several other ministers.
Penang obtained approval for the environmental impact assessment of the PSR last week.
The PSR is a RM11 billion land reclamation project off the southern coast of Penang island to create three man-made islands covering 4,500 acres.
The man-made islands were to increase the state’s land banks and also to be sold off to raise funds for the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan.