GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Fishermen's Association (Pen Mutiara) has questioned the Penang government's confidence in starting reclamation works for the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project, at a time when numerous welfare issues involving the fisher folk have yet to be resolved.
Its chairman Mahadi Md Rodzi said the project is currently facing a legal obstacle, with fishermen in the midst of challenging the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report in July 2019.
The EIA expires on June 25 this year.
Moreover, he said, the fishermen had received a response from the Department of Environment (DoE)'s appeal board, informing them that a committee has been set up to review their appeal.
He said, based on the letter received, their appeal would be heard in Putrajaya on March 23, 25 and 26.
This, he said, has led to incredulity on their part regarding the authorities' claim that reclamation works would begin late March or early April.
Mahadi said the Penang government and the developers should have been well versed on the provision of the law. He said Environment and Water Minister Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man had stressed in Dewan Rakyat last year that the PSR project could not proceedn pending issues related to the EIA.
"Is the Penang government trying to challenge what had been decided by the minister on this issue?
"As stressed by our lawyers, if the reclamation work proceeds in March and April, then the state government has gone against the law," he said.
It was reported earlier today that despite widespread protest, the Penang government was adamant in beginning reclamation works for the PSR project.
Penang Infrastructure Corporation (PIC) Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Seri Farizan Darus said reclamation is expected to begin late March or early April, as soon as they receive approval for the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) by the DoE.
The EMP, which is to ensure that contractors appointed for the project fulfil all the EIA approval conditions during reclamation works, was submitted to the DoE last month.
Meanwhile, Mahadi claimed the state government's announcement of the said project was "a desperate move" to influence and convince certain fishermen to accept the ex-gratia offered.
"In fact, the majority of fishermen in the affected areas rejected the compensation offered, which they deemed a pittance compared to the mega project's value, and would impact their livelihood in the long run," he added.
Mahadi also hoped that no outsiders would deal with the fishermen community with regards to this issue and instead refer directly to the association to avoid any confusion and ensure the welfare of all fishermen are looked after.