KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — The Penang Tolak Tambak ad hoc group today appealed to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) to conduct a full investigation of the plight faced by fishermen affected by the proposed Penang South Reclamation (PSR) Project.
Penang Forum committee member Khoo Salma Nasution, when submitting a memorandum to Suhakam over the matter, said the deliberate erosion of fisheries rights posed a monumental threat to the nation’s food security and inflict ‘permanent damage’ on Penang’s richest fishery and sensitive coastal system.
The adverse effect, Khoo added, would harm the livelihoods of some 4,900 fishermen and 500 marine aquaculture operations.
“We call upon Suhakam to advise the Penang state government, developers, government officers and fisheries authorities to respect the fishing communities’ rights and to conduct any consultations fairly and transparently with all legitimate representatives on board.
“Any attempts to undermine the Persatuan Nelayan Pulau Pinang’s collective position by any party in any a manner should be forewarned and investigated,” she said at the Suhakam headquarters here.
Penang Tolak Tambak — an ad-hoc coalition between Penang’s Fishermen Association and Penang Forum — was formed mid-2019 to stop the destructive large-scale coastal reclamation projects in Penang.
Khoo also said they were appealing to Suhakam to ensure that local fishing communities are not disenfranchised of their rights to the fisheries commons which has been a source of livelihood for generations.
“To protect the human rights of the nelayan (fishermen), we call upon Suhakam to conduct a full investigations of the plight of the Penang and Perak nelayan threatened by the proposed PSR project,” she said.
The memorandum submitted to Suhakam today was also endorsed by 36 civil societies group including prominent environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace Malaysia, Sahabat Alam Malaysia and Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY).
The memorandum titled “Reclamation is a Travesty of Environment Justice and Human Rights for vulnerable coastal communities” outlined five issues to be raised to the Penang state government as project proponent and approver of the PSR project.
Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph, who received the memorandum, said Suhakam was well-aware of various complaints it had received the past several months over the PSR project.
“We will continue to meet with the stakeholders. We will continue to find out more information as we understand meetings have taken place with the affected NGOs.
“The framework here is transparency and involvement of all stakeholders in the matter,” he said while acknowledging the group’s concerns.
Lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, who is the legal representative for Penang Tolak Tambak, urged the Penang state government to be extremely responsibly by the manner on how they were proceeding with the reclamation plan
“The basis for the reclamation, I am not sure whether it is wholly justified... the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) I am not sure that is a good basis.
“Our concern is that we have the National Physical Plan in place but we are not sure if the PSR have accorded to this plan,” she said.
She also expressed delight that Suhakam was looking into the matter, saying she also hoped absolute transparency prevails as the matter concerned the lives of people living at present time and the future generations.
“I am appealing to the Penang state government to please deal with this issue extremely responsibly in light of climate change and environmental disaster that we are seeing over the world,” she said.
Under the PSR project, the state government is proposing to reclaim 4,500 acres of the sea through three man-made islands south of Penang International Airport towards the east around Permatang Damar Laut to create a land bank to fund the PTMP.
The state plans to sell the reclaimed land to raise funds for the PTMP that includes a Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the controversial Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) highway.
PIL1 is a 19.5km highway that is estimated to cost RM7.5 billion while the LRT, to cover 29.5km, is estimated to cost RM8.4 billion.
Environmentalists opposed to the PSR project have argued that such a project would adversely impact the livelihood of fishermen and the marine ecosystem in the southern part of the island.