- Published on Wednesday, 02 January 2013 16:35
KUALA LUMPUR: The apparent suicides of a family of three in Pengerang, Johor, where the controversial RM60 billion Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) is being built, is causing a stir among residents fearful of being steamrolled in the oil giant’s bid to take control of their land.
Gabungan NGO Pengerang (GNP), a grassroots group that has sprung up in Johor opposing the oil plant in their backyard, suggested that the death of the family with the surname Pang, was due to overwhelming pressure over the project that would have resulted in them losing their homes without proper compensation.
“GNP feels very sad over the tragedy in which a poor family was unable to take the pressure of life, as a result of the land acquisition by the developers, and finally was forced to commit suicide.
“We also urge the government to care over what happened, if the relevant parties still insist on this development, it is believed will cause more tragedies in Pengarang [sic],” the group’s treasurer, Chua Peng Sin, said in a media statement today.
He said he was told by residents that the family had received a notice informing them their home was being acquired for the RAPID project and they would receive only RM20,000 in compensation as the land on which their house was built was owned by another.
“After Pang received the land acquisition letter, he had asked for help from the ruling political party, and had informed the party he wished to commit suicide,” Chua said.
He recounted that the family suffered financial difficulties as the father who earned a living helping out at a restaurant had to quit his job to care for his wife, who had suffered a stroke, and their child, who was diagnosed to be mentally disabled.
A Chinese-language daily reported today that a Chinese man surnamed Pang, estimated to be in his 60s, his 57-year-old wife, and their son, 20, had died of smoke inhalation in their single-storey home in Kampung Jawa, one of seven villages in the Pengerang area slated to be acquired by the state for the RAPID project.
Kota Tinggi police have ruled out foul play and confirmed the cause of death to be inhalation of charcoal smoke in an enclosed room, Sin Chew Daily reported.
Their bodies were discovered by the elder Pang’s sister-in-law during her visit yesterday, the paper reported, adding that she noticed the windows had all been boarded up.
The paper also reported that the father had tried to commit suicide several times previously, citing an unnamed close family friend.
According to neighbors, the pressure of taking care of his wife and son had also taken its toll on the man, the paper reported.
The bodies of the trio have been released to their kin and will be cremated in three days, Sin Chew reported.
The mega project is expected to turn Pengerang into a boom town for global petroleum investors, rivaling neighboring Singapore as Asia’s most vibrant petrochemical hub, and creating over 40,000 job opportunities for locals from construction to downstream activities.
But the government’s plans have still run afoul the local communities living in the many fishing villages girdling the southern shore of Pengerang, and green groups nationwide, who argue that the plant will cause large-scale environmental destruction and deprive the locals of their livelihood.
The RAPID project is set to occupy over 6,424-acres of the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex’s (PIPC) 22,500 acres, which is home to some 28,000 Pengerang parliamentary constituents in the southernmost tip of Johor. PIPC is a massive RM170 billion project that is expected to turn Malaysia into a mega petrochemical hub.
According to previous media reports, the state government has already invoked compulsory land acquisition under Section 8 of the Land Acquisition Act 1960 to resettle the seven villages occupying the 6,424-acre space earmarked for Petronas’s Refinery and Petrochemicals Development (RAPID) project.
The villages to be relocated are Kampung Sungai Kapal, Kampung Teluk Empang, Kampung Langkah Baik, Kampung Sebong, Kampung Batu Mas, Kampung Jawa and Kampung Sungai Buntu.
By Debra Chong / The Malaysian Insider