Meaningful, inclusive community engagement

Sheena Wong 

The Penang South Islands (PSI) is a catalytic project that will drive the timely expansion for Penang 2030. It stems from the State Government’s vision to revive Penang‘s socio-economy and elevate the living standard of its residents. Aimed at creating equal opportunities, a central part of this project is to enable community involvement and employment, which represent the social aspect of ESG. 

Community relations and issue management

The Strategic Communications and Stakeholder Management (SCSM) team of SRS Consortium works closely with the Penang State Government to manage this aspect of the project.  

“Over the years, our team connected with fishermen associations, Members of Parliament (MPs), State Assemblypersons (ADUNs), local councillors, MPKK, village leaders, schools, places of worship, resident associations (RAs) and NGOs through various one-to-one engagements, public forums, focus group discussions, townhall briefings and community related services and activities. It is an achievement to see how our team has grown their capabilities to tackle all kinds of issues on the ground. We treat each other like family here,” said Audrey Lakai, Assistant General Manager of SCSM. 

J.Sugenesen A/L Janarthanan, Assistant Manager of SCSM recounted his personal growth, “Initiating the engagement in the early days was challenging yet fruitful. We remained focused on our intention to be on the ground and gauge true sentiments. We also explored different ways to engage with the community and disseminate accurate information about PSI.” 

Helping the flood victims in a clean-up event at Kampung Masjid, Teluk Kumbar in 2017

J.Sugenesen (in blue shirt standing) conversing  with fishermen at Permatang Damar Laut in 2019

Dedicated PPSN for fishermen

We integrated the local culture and perspective in our stakeholder communication when we established dedicated fishermen’s information centres, named Pusat Perkhidmatan Setempat Nelayan (PPSN) by hiring local people for the job – to provide support to the communities and address the fishermen issues. We have established three PPSN to-date, located at Permatang Damar Laut, Gertak Sanggul and Sungai Batu. The support that we receive from the locals has grown through these centres over time. 

Coming from a fisherman family, it was a turning point for Senior Information Officer of PPSN, Zuraini Binti Mad Zin, when she joined the team in 2016. The move was encouraged by her father, a known fisherman in Southern Penang who sees the benefit of the PSI project in providing stable income and better livelihood for his children. 

It is an arduous task to engage with people on the ground constantly, yet Zuraini tackles it with positivity and by speaking in their language. She said, “The fishermen are like my uncles and I have known some of them since young. By being in this, I see it as a chance to serve my community. For instance, we recently distributed food baskets to assist the needy affected by the pandemic. They appreciate and remember the kind gestures of PPSN.” 

The list of work does not stop there. Zuraini’s team regularly engages the people for their feedback and help the fishermen communities in many impactful ways – such as repairing the fisherman’s houses, providing job opportunities for the young and taking care of the elderly welfare. This in turn, helps the team maintain a close affinity with the local community. 

Audrey (on the left) and Zuraini (on the right) engaging with a fisherman at Teluk Kumbar.

Zuraini (in black shirt) engaging with fishermen at Kampung Nelayan Teluk Kumbar in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Keeping the ground warm

In plan, the SRS Consortium team continues the roll-out of Community Participation Programme (CPP) based on four key initiatives to foster relationship with the local communities while aligning to the Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP), PSR Ecology Offset Masterplan (PEOM) and Gamuda Green Plan 2025. 

Hats off to the team – up until July 2021, we have reached out to a total of 44,909 stakeholders since 2015. The social impact from these engagements have brought valuable insights into the minds of various community groups.  

As a result, we can address their pertinent needs and additionally, bring tremendous improvement to the livelihood of the local community, by creating job security in the long run and generating business opportunities for the local supply chain. Many Penangites like J.Sugenesen and Zuraini are looking forward in realising this project.