Fisherfolk have once again expressed their unhappiness over the land reclamation in Penang.
There is a moral issue to consider here. The sea belongs to all of us: it is part of ‘the commons’. The commons is “the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately”.
After the land reclamation, the state government will sell the land to developers. In effect, it is ‘privatising’ the commons for developers to reap enormous profits. And at almost 4,500 acres with gross development value of RM160bn, it is not piddling land reclamation we are talking about. Is it fair for the present state administration to commit future administrations to these controversial and grandiose plans for the next decade or two?
Check out this photo-story by a Penang-based filmmaker who spent a day with the fisherfolk of Tanjung Tokong in northeastern Penang Island. As one of the fisher folk said, “Tanah dah mereka ambil, sekarang laut pun mereka nak?” (They have taken our land, now they want to take our sea?)
As their catch dwindles, the fisherfolk now have to burn more fuel and time going further into the sea for their catch. How do you begin to compensate for loss of marine life and increased scarcity of fish as a source of food, not to mention the fisherfolk’s loss of earnings?
The following video shows an SRS rep describing their land reclamation methods in southern Penang Island while environmentalist Dr Leong Yueh Kwong talks about the impact of the land reclamation.
It is unlikely that the land reclamation plans would be popular among the local residents of the south. Has the state government commissioned an independent poll of how they feel about the 4,500-acre land reclamation plan?
Many would realise it is another case of the privatisation of profits and the socialisation of losses.