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Friday, March 16, 2012

Another 'green' rally in BN backyard - on Sunday

After the anti-Lynas movement in Kuantan, Pahang, another multi-racial environmental movement is brewing in the southern state of Johor to oppose the construction of the country's largest integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex.

NONEThe first large-scale rally against the mega Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development Project (Rapid) will be held on Sunday by the local residents of Pengerang.

The peaceful rally is jointly organised by Persatuan Anak Pengerang, an organisation formed by Malay residents, and the Pengerang village committee, which is dominated by Chinese villagers.

Participants will gather at Tanjung Dato Pengarang at 10am before marching to Kampung Telok Ampang and SRJK (C) Tai Sin.

An online invitation has been posted on social website Facebook,calling on residents of neighbouring districts, including Johor Baru and Kulai, to join the rally.

The organisers have marked a meeting point in each of the two districts and will guide outstation participants to Pengerang, which is about 70 minutes' drive from Johor Baru.

One of the village committee members, who did not want to be named, told Malaysiakini that they have slipped circulars into local newspapers calling on the local folk to attend the rally.

However, she conceded, many of the local people were reluctant to join the assembly because of their low education background and affiliation with ruling political parties, making them vulnerable to political intimidation.

RM600 billion project by Petronas

Pengerang is a small coastal town in southeast Johor, which serves as a customs and immigration post. It is about 80km from Singapore, across the Johor Straits, and 110km from Johor Baru.

NONESungai Rengit, the main fishing village in Pengerang, is famous for its seafood, especially small lobsters.

The MP for Pengerang is former tourism minister Azalina Othman Said.

The magnitude of the RM600 billion Rapid, unveiled by Petronas during a its launch by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak last May, will be far larger than the combined size of Petronas' existing oil complexes in Malacca, Kerteh and Gebeng.

The mega project aims to transform southern Johor into a refining and petrochemical centre, complementing the existing facilities on the east coast of the peninsula and in Singapore.

Rapid is expected to create some 20,000 jobs during its construction period and up to 4,000 jobs in the highly-skilled sector upon its completion by the end of 2016.

An RM5 billion deepwater petroleum terminal will also be jointly developed in Pengerang by Dialog Pengerang Sdn Bhd, Dutch company Royal Vopak and the Johor state government.

3,000 residents to be relocated

According to Chinese newspaper Oriental Daily News, Rapid will acquire some 22,500 acres of land, affecting up to 15 villages in Pengerang.

Some 3,000 residents living in about 1,000 houses in the area and another 927 families will be required to move out of their homes during the first phase of the development.

NONESeveral residents of Pengerang contacted byMalaysiakini said they heard the government would from next month start the process of acquiring their lands, including plots with freehold titles.

"So far we have not received any letter on this, and we don't know how the government will compensate us.

"Some people believe the government will compensate us by way of cash and land, while some say it will only be cash. Others say we have to buy land from the government after receiving the cash compensation," said a villager who did not want to be named.

Barred from fishing

Although the details of land acquisition are yet to be announced, villagers have been barred from going out to sea to fish because construction in the causeway off the coast of Pengerang has started.

"One-third of the Chinese burial ground has been demolished because it is near the construction site. Some of the graveyards of our ancestors have been destroyed," the villager said.

According to her, the village committee has been reshuffled to remove some politicians who tried to convince them to accept the compensation and move out.

"After the reshuffle, we now have a united committee and only one stance, that is for the project to be relocate away from Pengerang. We will not sell our lands and homes," she added.

It is still not clear whether the movement can loosen BN's grip on Johor, a stronghold of the ruling BN coalition, just as how the anti-Lynas movement has shaken the political landscape of Pahang.

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