Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Uncertain Fate of the Fishermen in Georgetown.

It has been over ten years  now that i have been hanging out at this location of the Malay Fisherman's Huts located off the Lim Chong Yu Highway. This is one of my 'Ports' as the 'Boys' would call it. On hot and humid days when it would be too much to bear at the house, I would escape to this place and do whatever that I do.

A few days ago the Maritime police raided this whole area in a full scale operation against drug trafficking and abuse which is one of the features of this area's community activity, mostly Ganja and a drink called Ketum or as locally called 'Biak'. Both are to me harmless if not medicinal if used within limits and has been in use for as long as i can remember in my life. It is sad that the law and enforcement agency has no better activity to handle than harass a handful of people whose only form of escape from the pressures of life is indulging in getting stoned or high with the use of a natural stimulant such as Marijuana and the Ketum leaf. 

This is the Malay section of the Fishing Community along the coastal areas of Penang itself and most of the fishermen  are from the nearby low cost housing of the Jelutong area has been fishing most of their lives. Fishing is a very tough life especially in and around the Island of Penang where competition with the Chinese fishermen is just one of the obstacles to be dealt with. The fishing is more often slim in catch as the sea around the Island is highly polluted. The fishermen has to go far out to sea to make any good catch. The rise in fuel cost and the lack of any government funding or support makes fishing here a costly venture. Most of these fishermen do other odd jobs along with their fishing activity.

There is no fresh water supply to this small community and water for any purposes has to be carted in from nearby low cost housing. Most of the makeshift huts that stands tall in the mud and sea water are in deplorable state some are about to slide off into the deep. But having been a frequent visitor to the community I feel a great sense of pride among its residents in keeping the place afloat despite the odds mounting against it.   

It is sad to watch the slow death of a way of life of a community that had survived  for so long. It is like witnessing the last throws of a dying sea bass. There is very little that can be done about the fate of these fishermen and their way of life and I sincerely hope that the Penang State Government will be able to find an amicable solution to this situation. 

As modernization creeps up from nearby areas the fishing community is slowly pushed further out into the sea, in a way this is symbolic of the fate of the Malays of Penang in general. Whose fault is it? Don't ask!

Man will do whatever it takes to make a living and hold on to whatever sense of pride that is still left within himself to make sure that he is occupied with a worthwhile vocation in life. What happens when all these are taken away from him? It is only for God and time to tell and in the meantime, the life of the Malay Fishermen in this community hangs at the end of the fishhook.  

He walks with a precarious sense of pride as he watches the tide goes in and out.

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