Kg Telaga Village Security and Development Committee (JKKK) Head Norsal Ejal, who led the group of 45 people to Masidi's office in Wisma Tun Fuad on Monday, said after the stop work order was issued by the Environment Protection Department (EPD) many villagers employed as daily rated workers at the site lost their source of income.
It was reported that the suspension of the project was due to the clearing of mangrove forest without prior Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval.
The project, located on land that was previously logged, is within the vicinity of Kampung Datong, Kampung Kuyuh, Kampung Manggis and Kampung Telaga.
Once completed some 3,800 badly needed jobs were promised.
The joint-venture partner of the project, Sunlight Inno Seafood Sdn Bhd had revealed the Pitas Land Utilisation Committee (LUC) had approved the project at the site that was earmarked for aquaculture development in 1983.
However, the EPD had issued a stop-work order on Sept 23 when officials discovered clearing works had begun without an EIA.
The company was issued a RM30,000 compound and a second stop work order was issued on Dec 23. It paid the compound the next day.
The project was aimed at boosting economic activity in Pitas through the Economic Transformation Programme managed by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) of the Prime Minister's Department.
"Many of our people work as labourers as well as clerks and supervisors at the site. For the first time in all our lives we had something to look forward to but now this problem is worrying us," Norsal said.
Therefore, they decided to travel to the State Capital and hand over the letter to Masidi appealing him to intervene and at the same time explain what is happening.
The group included Kampung Manggis Village Head Dek Lukasa, its JKKK chairman Mustari Lukasa, Kampung Kuyuh Village Head Ishak Gadian, Kampung Datong Village Head Deek Mindawan and representatives from Kuyuh Junain Rontobon and Sungai Eloi Inting Sombing and Rahim Doyong.
"We are appealing to the government to consider our plight and the hardship we face all these years. There is finally something we can look forward to," he said, adding that there are some 3,000 people living in the affected area.
"In my village Kampung Telaga alone there are some 1,200 people and its one of the biggest villages in Pitas.
"The people of Pitas have long been known as the poorest because there is nothing much to do in the district except for odd jobs, small rubber plantations or smalltime farming or fishing activities," he said.
"This project with support from the government and a state government agency now has given us the opportunity to improve our economy but now we face this stumbling block," he added.
Norsal said the road leading to their villages has been improved through the aquaculture project and this showed how it would help bring more development to the community.
If the problem persists, Norsal said it would also have a negative effect on nearby projects such as the Shrimp Farming Agropolitan, which was being funded by the Federal Government through Sedia (Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority).
He also revealed that a big part of the area where the project was to be developed has been logged over by the Sabah Forest Development Authority (Safoda) in the 1980s.
"In the recent election this project was promised to us and if stopped now it will really be a disappointment because we believed in it.
This contributed to the majority win in Pitas".