MALACCA POLLS | Malacca Pakatan Harapan chief Adly Zahari said the reason fisherfolk in the state did not receive compensation from reclamation works that had impacted their livelihood was because the BN state government had spent them prior to the 2018 general election.
Adly said after Harapan came to power after the 2018 general election with him as chief minister, they discovered that some RM33 million in compensation were owed to the fishermen but was never paid out.
This was in relation to reclamation works for the Tanjung Bruas port expansion.
"By right, this money should have been separated as a special fund for the fishermen, and the government should have also repaid the sum.
“When we took over the administration, we knew the amount was RM33 million.
“But that was merely a number on paper, and it had been exhausted,” he told a press conference in Kelebang, Malacca, today after visiting the local fisherfolk.
He said the BN government had used the funds intended for fisherfolk to pay the salaries of civil servants and run government events due to budgetary shortfall.
Adly said under his leadership, the Harapan government sought to raise the money to cover the exhausted fund and have distributed some RM8 million to the fisherfolk before the state government collapsed in March 2020 due to defections.
The Bukit Katil candidate added that Harapan was committed to spending the balance funds via two methods: cash handouts and infrastructure development such as nets, boat accessibility and engines for them.
An Umno-Bersatu alliance under Sulaiman Md Ali took over the state government. Under Sulaiman's tenure, he had instructed Tanjung Bruas port to compensate the fisherfolk.
However, the fisherfolk said they have not seen any of that compensation money.
The reclamation works, they say, have wrecked the ecosystem and driven fish away from the shores.
Adly said Harapan also pledged to review BN's mega reclamation project - the Malacca Waterfront Economic Zone (M-WEZ) - if the coalition can form the next state government.
“M-WEZ will be reviewed. Only a few areas will be allowed for land reclamation.
“What can be assessed will be assessed,” Adly said. PN has also made a similar promise.
Adly said he was keener on developing existing reclaimed lands that have yet to be developed.
As chief minister, Sulaiman touted the M-WEZ which he described as a "game-changer" for the state's economic future.
M-WEZ was incorporated in the BN's manifesto, with the coalition claiming that it can generate some 10,000 jobs within five years.
The mega project involves 10,000ha, and will take up about half of Malacca's entire coastline.
Starting from the coast of Sungai Udang, it will extend along the coast of Pantai Kundor to Kelebang, Kesidang, Kota Laksamana, Bandar Hidir, Telok Mas and to the northern part of Serkam, covering a length of 33km.
It will involve extending the Malacca coast further out to sea, creating large swathes of new land to be developed into, among others, a harbour, business parks, townships and a logistics centre, pushing long-time fishing villages farther inland and away from the sea.
BN, however, has defended the reclamation projects, stating that they have been an important source of income for the state government.
Malacca BN chief Ab Rauf Yusoh maintained that fishermen can still continue making a living because "the sea is wide".
Without compensation, the fisherfolk said they do not have the financial capability to upgrade their equipment for deep-sea fishing and are forced to continue with coastal fishing despite the areas becoming depleted of marine life due to reclamation works.
For this reason, Adly said the level of sea reclamation must be controlled.
“I am aware that small (less-resourced) fisherfolk are unable to go far (into the sea) for their safety.
“We also want to ensure our sea has sufficient fish, hence the (land) reclamation needs to be limited and controlled,” he said.
The 12-day campaign for the Malacca polls will come to a close on Friday. Malaccans will go to the polls on Saturday (Nov 20).