Mat Sabu’s help sought to get Malaysian fishermen in Indonesia released

From right: Yong, Chong, Tan and Dr Yii in discussion with Mat Sabu (second from left).

KUCHING, April 3: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak leaders hope the Defence Ministry could expedite negotiations to get all those aboard Malaysian fishing boats, including two from Sarawak, that were intercepted by Indonesian authorities to be released quickly.

Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Chong Chieng Jen, Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong and former Stampin MP Julian Tan were in Parliament to meet with Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu to follow up on the issue and discussed matters involving maritime borders in Sarawak.

Dr Yii said in a press statement today that the meeting was a follow-up to previous meetings with other ministers to resolve this long-standing issue, which required the efforts of multiple ministries, including the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Other than to push for the fast release of these ships, we also discuss finding a proper long-term solution to the disputed waters between Malaysia and Indonesia, which has affected not just our fisherman but the whole fishing industry itself,” he said.

In the case for Sarawak, both the boats were said to have encroached into Indonesia waters even though the coordinates provided by both boats at the point of arrest on March 12 and 13 were said to be within our Malaysian waters.

He reiterated that Malaysian and Indonesian governments had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in November 2017 in Kuching, in which the terms and conditions agreed to include that any fishermen caught would be released swiftly as the majority of such cases were being done unintentionally due to the confusion as far as maritime borders are concerned.

“Both countries have agreed that most of the fishermen involved are from the lower income group who rely on fishing for a living. That is why they should be released swiftly, including their boats and fishing equipment,” he added.

“In the meeting with the Minister, we asked for all these negotiations to be expedited, including to urge the Indonesian authorities to respect the terms and conditions of the signed MoU between our governments,” he said.

The DAP Sarawak leaders also proposed enhancing the maritime security, especially around Sarawak borders, and not just to guard against national threats or even terrorists but to also guard against foreign fishing vessels that trespassed into our waters to fish and steal our maritime resources.

“We were made to understand that our country loses up to RM7 billion worth of fish and maritime resources annually due to encroachment by foreign fishing vessels, especially from Vietnam and Indonesia, as well as to the use of illegal methods to fish and deplete our resources,” he pointed out.

“But we know that the Ministry of Defence is doing all they can to strengthen security around our maritime borders, including requesting an additional RM200 million, which was approved in the Supplementary Budget Bill to purchase more assets to better guard our borders.”

The current assets, Dr Yii observed, had not been maintained properly and was inefficient to handle the growing issues nowadays.

“We, thus, proposed to them to increase and provide all the proper and modern maritime assets, including modern scanners and even military surveillance UAV, to watch our borders, especially in Sarawak and the borders of the South China Sea.

“This includes advanced surveillance technology that employs innovative, integrated and actionable intelligence across all departments and agencies to create a Maritime Domain Awareness to better monitor our maritime borders,” he suggested.

Dr Yii assured that they would continue to follow up on this issue and hope that a long-term solution could be achieved amicably between the Malaysian and Indonesian governments for the benefit and security of the people as well as for the interest of the industry, which will help propel Malaysia’s and Sarawak’s economy. — DayakDaily