KUCHING, July 11: Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing wants an urgent meeting with all stakeholders in the local fishing industry to protect the State’s waters from being encroached by foreign vessels.
In a press statement last night, Tiong who is also Bintulu MP, pointed out that it was a fact that unauthorised foreign fishing vessels have been intruding into Sarawak’s waters and threatened the safety of the local fishermen.
He also advised the enforcement agencies such as the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), the Department of Fisheries and the Marine police to be always on the guard against foreigners who encroached the State waters.
“In the evening of July 6 (Saturday), several fishermen complained to me that foreign vessels acted aggressively while approaching their boats near the Bintulu-Miri border. I called the Miri branch of the MMEA and was told that the ships could not go out to sea then due to repairs.
“But once I insisted that it was an emergency, I was suddenly told (that) the foreign boats immediately switched of their lights, and turned themselves around. Was this a coincidence? Perhaps MMEA State director like to clarify what happened since he should know the situation better than most,” Tiong said.
He asserted that since the MMEA director had described his enforcement as beyond reproach, they would be willing to disclose the number of complaints received from the fishing community and MMEA’ responses to those complaints.
“During the seizure of the Vietnamese vessels and their personnel, your own officers said that the MMEA fled the scene once the foreigners responded aggressively. How do you explain this?
“Furthermore, the official responses to fishermen reporting the situation is to doubt their information. What kind of security force is this? Do you have to wait for a tragedy to happen before taking action? Is this the efficiency of the MMEA that director is talking about?” asked Tiong.
Tiong was responding to MMEA State director First Admiral Robert Teh Geok Chuan’s recent statements made at a press conference that MMEA was competent enough to look after the State’s waters.
In the press conference, Teh said fuel was not a problem and that MMEA was well-equipped to protect Sarawak’s waters against intrusion of foreign vessels.
The press conference was believed to be called in response to Tiong’s earlier statements where Tiong alleged that State MMEA and the Fisheries Department gave lame excuses such as insufficient fuel for patrol crafts and fear of reprisals in face of foreign vessel intrusions in response to complaints from local fisherman community.
As such Tiong called on the Federal Government to disband these enforcement agencies if they were found to be incompetent.
Meanwhile, Tiong said the comments made by Teh’s yesterday seemed to show that the latter was unaware of the recent dialogues between the police, MMEA, and the various associations, held in Miri.
“But he had continued to wholly underestimated the scale of the problem faced by our local fishermen. I’d advised him not to be complacent with the complaints. Press conferences about apprehending four foreign vessels does not explain the continuing problem of illegal intrusions, threats to our local fishermen and plunder of our marine resources,” he said.
He also recommended Teh to look into statements made by his own MMEA officers, the Department of Fisheries, the PDRM’s marine unit, Miri Fishermen’s Association and the Sarawak Fishermen’s Association (Penesa), whose opinionsdiffered from his.
“Perhaps the previous media reports and statements issued in the past did not press the urgency of the issue to the director. Perhaps he feels that the issue is being exaggerated by certain parties.
“These complaints are not anyone’s figment of imagination. I had personally asked for the contact number of the fishermen who attended the dialogue in Miri. Even enforcement officers during then had admitted to a lack of resources, especially in terms of reduced allocations.
“At the same time, officers also complained of Vietnamese fishing boats posing a threat to their enforcement vessels and they had to withdraw due to overwhelming hazard. Everyone has their reasons to complain but so far, the director seems to be oblivious of these complaints,” said Tiong.
As such, he challenged Teh to resign if the latter could not perform his duties competently to ensure the safety of the State’s waters. — DayakDaily