Not many years ago, when people protested against mega projects in Penang including property development on sensitive hill-slopes, the state government would warn us that if the projects were cancelled, the state would have to incur “hundreds of millions in compensation” payouts to developers.
This time, as the cries of #PenangTolakTambak ring louder, the state government seems to be falling over itself to “selesai” the problem by talking of dishing out compensation, including bigger boats for the fishermen.
It is as if all the massive problems of the disastrous RM46bn PTMP and the 4,500-acre southern reclamation plan to create three artifiical islands could be resolved simply through compensation payouts to fishermen – never mind the enormous social and environmental costs to the people of Penang.
Even Anwar Ibrahim appears to be singing a modified version of the same compensation tune – some other vague talk of improvements thrown in – despite being surrounded by #PenangTolakTambak banners during his recent visit to Penang. :
Obviously, he had not received the memo.
If he had, he would have known the fishermen’s three requests to the National Physical Planning Council at the end of their memo, which they hand-delivered during their recent protest in Parliament:
- Cancel the reclamation in the south.
- Undertake a comprehensive review of the entire “PTMP” by independent transport experts and planning professionals.
- Place a moratorium on sand-mining activities in the waters off the coast of Perak.
Check out how strongly they conveyed their unmistakable message on their way to Parliament:
If the government insists on bulldozing the reclamation through – and the fishermen then find themselves with their backs against the wall – then and only then would the issue of compensation for the fishermen and so-called “transformation” of fisheries arise.
But those in power have ingored the fishermen’s three requests – even though they have received the memo. (Funny that – because they claimed that they have held over 4,000 consultations sessions with the fishermen – although the Penang Fishermen’s Association says they have met the state only once. Somebody is having a problem with maths.)
Instead state government leaders have latched on to incessant talk about negotiating compensation (many Penang people are so tired of that word) and fulfilling the growing and “tedious” list of “conditions” and “nasihat”.
One way of looking at this litany of conditions is that the various departments and ministries are trying to cover their backs by putting in all these conditions in case things go wrong.
But even though the DoE has attached 72 conditions to its EIA approval for the reclamation and even though the federal government has not yet approved the project, the Penang state government seems to be going ahead with its “phase 2”, whatever that means.
Nurul Izzah might be out of government, but she is more clued in with the people’s concerns, having also visited the fishermen recently.
She might not be aware of the intricacies of the damaging transport infrastructure components and details of the enviromentally unfriendly “PTMP” (she has called for alternative solutions to finance the PTMP rather than raising funds through reclamation). Notably, though, she has called for a more sustainable (“lebih lestari”) plan.
It is apparent that Nurul Izzah is against the massive reclamation, raising some uncomfortable questions about the whole reclamation business in Parliament. Check her out in action below:
Good for her! Showing some real leadership qualities there – unlike many of her fellow MPs who are as silent as churchmice on this issue or kowtowing to their party bosses.
Meanwhile, concerned Penangites are venting their frustration on social messaging platforms by coining their own acronyms to rival the official so-called Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), which is drastically different from the original transport plan by Halcrow consultants:
Penang Offset Master Plan = POMP, reflecting the pompous talk of compensation to bulldoze the reclamation through. POMP is supposed to fulfil some of the concerns by the Developers over Environment – or rather, Department of Environment – over the reclamation.
Penang Infrastructure Master Plan = PIMP. Never mind.
Then, there’s this:
It is sad that it has come to this. Like many Malaysians, many Penangites voted for Reformasi! – but perhaps their calls have been misunderstood. For, in Penang, all they seem to be getting is non-stop Reklamasi.