Portuguese fishermen protest land reclamation with a mock funeral

Contrast: The fishermen with their “coffin” signifying the end of their livelihood. Seen behind them are the devloper’s earth movers hard at work reclaiming land near their settlement.

MALACCA: Some 80 fishermen from the Portuguese Settlement carried three coffins while protesting against the effects of reclamation work on their livelihood.

The protest on Thursday was held at the reclamation site off the coast on Thursday.

Portuguese Settlement’s Fishermen head Gerard Danker alleged their catch had depleted since the project started a year ago.

“Previously, our fishermen could yield a catch worth RM300 a day but now is difficult to obtain even half the amount,” he said when met at the settlement’s jetty.

“No one can comprehend our suffering, we are not only losing our heritage but also livelihood,” Danker added.

He said because of the project, they have been forced to venture deep into sea in small vessels to obtain a higher catch, putting their lives at risk, especially during adverse weather.

Danker also revealed that the fishermen’s vessels and nets often get damaged due to the shallow waters because of the project.

Regedor (settlement’s chief) Raymond Lopez voiced concern over the impact of the project on the community’s heritage.

“The shrinking sea could have a serious impact on our heritage and tradition of celebrating San Pedro as the celebration is closely linked to fishermen.

“The settlement is also a tourist attraction and with the vanishing seafront, it is going to affect tourism,” he said.

Malacca Portuguese-Eurasian Association (MPEA) president Michela Singho Singho had said a stop-work order should be issued pending discussions with the relevant parties.

He said a previous Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should not be used now as they had been done in 1997 by other parties for different projects which had been abandoned or aborted.

He said a Social Impact Assesment (SIA) should have been done too as the projects will affect the community.

Singho also claimed that there has also been no official discussion between the developer, the State Economic Planning Unit, the Department of Environment, and the Drainage and Irrigation Department with the Village Security and Development Committee members or representatives of the Portuguese community.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said the state government will wait for a comprehensive report before making a decision on the issues raised by the community.

Meanwhile, KAJ Development Sdn Bhd, the company carrying out the reclamation work, said they have all the necessary approvals.

Its director Hasbullah Zakaria said the project will also benefit the community in the long-term.

He said the reclamation work is part of the mega Melaka Gateway project which would provide more job opportunities and offers vast tourism and business potential.

Melaka Gateway, launched on Feb 7 last year, has an estimated gross developmental value (GDV) of RM40bil spanning 246ha including reclaimed land.

The project is set to become the largest private marina in Southeast Asia upon completion by 2025 with 12 precincts, including residential, commercial, cultural, entertainment and lifestyle elements.

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