Umno explains Pakatan’s Rapid backtrack

‘It can’t get enough support from Pengerang residents.’

Natasha Lai, FMT

A lack of popular support has forced Pakatan Rakyat to backtrack from opposing Petronas’ Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project in Pengerang, according to Johor Umno secretary Ghazali Abbas.

The opposition bloc had failed to win over local residents in its campaign against Rapid.

He was commenting on Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s statement yesterday that Pakatan was opposed not to the project per se, but to the way it was being implemented.

Ghazali claimed that most Pengerang residents were now in favour of the project.

According to him, the government carried out a survey among the residents, asking them to indicate whether they approved of the project, would accept the project if they received compensation, or were totally opposed to the project.

He did not reveal the detailed findings, saying only that “most of the residents accepted the project” and that the majority of those who demanded compensation had received their dues.

He said Pakatan “had to backtrack simply because they have failed to win over the residents”.

According to Hasnul Ahmad, who leads an anti-Rapid movement called Pengerang NGOs, the survey results went in favour of the government largely because many of the residents could not afford to go to trial. “So they chose Option 2 and took the compensation.”

They were told during the survey that they would each have to fork out a deposit of RM3,000 if they were to go to court, Hasnul added.

“Most of them are fishermen,” he said. “These people are poor and they can’t imagine where they could get that much money.”

About 40% of the residents were still against the project, he added.

Hasnul also said his movement would support Rapid if it were not located in a residential area and not detrimental to the environment.

“Pakatan’s stand is our stand,” he said, “because it’s Pakatan that has shown concern for us Pengerang residents.

“We’re not against development. The government can proceed with any development project as long as it does not intrude into our community and tradition, displace us and disturb our graveyards.”