A behind the scenes shot from Lebuh Agraria.
A behind the scenes shot from Lebuh Agraria.

Imagine if your community’s ancestral graves were to be displaced by rail tracks and oil pipes. Lebuh Agraria is a documentary about the people of Pengerang who are facing this very problem.

Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) is a soon-to-be-built regional oil and gas hub in south Johor. Estimates suggest that PIPC, a Petronas development, will contribute RM18.3 bil to 2020 gross national income and create 8600 jobs. That is an impressive number, but the social cost of this gargantuan project is just as great.

The documentary Lebuh Agraria, directed by Azhar Rudin, tells various stories of Malaysian peoples’ relationship to land. The most moving of these threads focuses on the fight of the Pengerang community.

Speaking at the premiere screening of the documentary at Freedom Film Fest, Mr Chua, the organiser of the Pengerang protest movement against the project, said, “The people – fishermen, owners of grocery shops –  who were forced to move are pak cik, mak cik. Really old. We get RM 30,000 as compensation, but have to buy new house that cost RM 90,000.”

The project is set to occupy over 6,424 acres, which is home to some 28,000 people. Cemeteries, schools, temples and mosques are also to be shifted due to the project. Mr Chua claims in the documentary, that the people were never consulted about the project, and few that did, were duped into signing contracts in Bahasa Malaysia – which most of the elderly Chinese do not understand.

Despite large protest in September 2012, the problem that has plagued the people of Pengerang never became a national issue. This prompted Mr Chua, and few others to stage a walk-protest from Pengerang to KLCC, the headquarters of Petronas, to raise awareness about their plight – documented in Lebuh Agraria.

The screening of the film was an emotive event. As Mr. Chua says in the documentary: “We’ve given up our homes. All that we ask now is for them to leave the cemeteries alone.”

Find out where to watch Lebuh Agraria here.

Audi bin Ali