KUCHING, March 19: Eight Malaysian boats are currently in the custody of Indonesian authorities, while nine Indonesian boats are being detained by Malaysian authorities.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said Minister of Agriculture Dato Salahuddin Ayub had assured that all efforts were being carried out to secure the release of the Malaysian fishing boats, including those from Sarawak, that were intercepted by the Indonesian authorities in the past few months.
He said the minister had made contact with Indonesian Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti for an official meeting in Jakarta to negotiate the release and also to seek a way to settle this long-standing issue, including official stand on the disputed waters.
In a statement today, Dr Yii said this was the reply to a question he posed in Parliament this morning. During the ministerial questioning time, he had raised the issue of increasing cases of Malaysian fishing boats being confiscated by the Indonesian authorities, including the two recent cases of a tourist fishing boat named ‘Nemo’ and another fishing boat registered as ‘SF1_66’.
The two boats, from Sarawak, were intercepted on March 12 and 13, 2019, respectively.
Both these boats were said to have encroached into Indonesia waters even though the coordinates provided by both boats at the point of arrest were said to be within Malaysian waters.
“I was informed that, actually, the Malaysian and Indonesian governments had signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) on Nov 2017 in Kuching. This MoU states that there is an understanding that any fisherman caught will be released swiftly as the majority of such cases was done unintentionally, especially due to the confusion of our maritime borders.
“Both countries have agreed that most of the fishermen involved are also from the lower socio-economic status, (who) are fully relying on their fishing activities. That is why they and their boats and fishing equipment should be released swiftly.
“However, even with that understanding, there is an increase of interceptions by the Indonesian authorities on our Malaysian boats all around the country, even when the fishermen claimed that they were well within the Malaysian maritime borders,” said Dr Yii.
He added that the minister also said there were currently also disputed waters at the Malaysia-Indonesia border, where both countries might have a different interpretation of borders.
“On top of that, due to political developments in Indonesia, the frequency of arrests of these fishing boats have also increased in view of the upcoming Indonesian elections.
“This issue has been ongoing for many years and actually involved multiple ministries, including Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Defence, Home Ministry, and Foreign Ministry.
“That is why I suggested to the Minister in Parliament that the federal government should establish a task force at the Cabinet level for higher-level direct negotiations with the Indonesian government to resolve any disputes, especially on our maritime borders and how we can protect and uphold the rights and security of our Malaysian fishermen,” said Dr Yii. — DayakDaily