Penang government oblivious to our cries, lament fishermen

GEORGE TOWN: Thousands of fishermen are disappointed with the Penang government for pushing ahead with the reclamation works for the RM8.5 billion Silicon Island project despite an appeal being filed against the approval of the project's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

Teluk Kumbar Fishermen Unit head Roslizan Ramli said it was obvious that the state government was oblivious to the cries of the fishermen.

"We have challenged the approval of the EIA report but no hearing date has been fixed yet by the Appeal Board.

"The state government is aware of this. Yet, they go ahead to begin the reclamation works.

"No one is listening to our cries. No one cares about us. We are left to fend for ourselves," he told the New Straits Times when met.

Last week, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said reclamation works had started as there had been no court injunction filed against it and that they had obtained all the approvals.

Roslizan said filing an injunction would incur high cost.

"As it is, we already filed an appeal. So, why proceed with the project when the appeal has yet to be heard? What is the hurry?" he asked.

Since Sept 3, two dredges have been at sea for preparatory works.

Roslizan said since reclamation works started, many of the fishermen had lost their spirit to go down to sea.

"We can't even cast our nets out near where the dredges are parked as the area has been cordoned off.

"And the area is where shrimps are aplenty," he said .

Meanwhile, Penang Parti Rakyat Malaysia vice-chairman Ravinder Singh said the state government did nothing wrong by starting with the project.

"However, they should have been more gentlemanly and waited until the appeal had been heard," he said.

According to Ravinder, when an appeal is filed against the conditions imposed by the Director General for his approval of an EIA, Section 12(2) of the Environmental Quality Act (Act 127), provides that:

No work on an approved project can start:

a) during the grace period for the filing of an appeal (30 days);

b) and if an appeal is filed, until a decision is made on the appeal

He, however, said when an appeal is filed under the Appeal Board Regulations 2003, against the approval of an EIA, the regulations do not have the same provision that prohibits work starting before the appeal process is over.

"Why is the law fair to someone who files an appeal against the conditions attached to the approval of an EIA, and unfair to another who files an appeal against the EIA itself. What is the logic? It boggles the mind.

"You file an appeal against the conditions, work cannot start on the project because some conditions must be complied with before work can start. You file an appeal against the EIA, work can start. 'Tak masuk akal'. Then what is the point of allowing an appeal to be made against the approval of the EIA?

"This is a serious anomaly which creates injustice in the administration of the appeal process," he pointed out.

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