Shun disputed waters, MMEA advises maritime community

By Nigel Edgar

KUCHING, March 15: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) is advising the maritime community in the state, including fishermen and sports fishing enthusiasts, to stay away from disputed waters between Malaysia and Indonesia.

This advice was given following the detention of two Sarawakian vessels recently by the Indonesian authorities despite the vessels being well within the internationally recognised borders of Malaysian waters.

MMEA Search and Rescue senior assistant director Lt Commander Musli Jaffar said despite so, the detained Malaysian vessel `Nemo’ with 14 people on board was released without any condition only after 5 days of negotiations between the Indonesian authority, MMEA and the Malaysian government.

“The boat (Nemo) was intercepted by the Indonesian Navy some 52.3 nautical miles off the coast of Tanjung Datu, well within the borders of Malaysia. The coordinates clearly indicated they were still within Malaysian waters.

“However, I was informed that the Indonesian Navy claimed that it was inside their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),” he told reporters at the Santubong Boat Club jetty here this afternoon after debriefing from the three-member crew and 11 Malaysian passengers on board the `Nemo’, which arrived here around 12.30pm.

The coordinates shown by MMEA, below is where the Nemo was intercepted while top was where the fishing boat was intercepted the day earlier.
Nemo crew members unloading their catch and equipment upon arrival at the Santubong Boat Club jetty.

They were released by the Indonesian Navy around 2pm yesterday after being detained on March 13 at around 9am and brought to the Indonesian Navy base in Pulau Batang at the nearby Natuna Besar Islands.

Musli said the Malaysian border was being recognised worldwide since 1979, and the claims by the Indonesian Navy was not recognised internationally.

The 13 Sarawakians and one Indonesian on board were treated very well by the Indonesian Navy while being detained in the Nemo. No interrogations were done as well, he added.

Meanwhile, another Sarawakian fishing vessel was also detained by the Indonesian authority on March 12 at around 11am, near where the `Nemo’ was intercepted. It was also well within the Malaysian border.

Musli (centre) pointing out to reporters the location where Nemo was intercepted, as Oswazir (left) and Tan listen.

Musli said the boat with three Indonesian crew members was owned by a Sarawak fishing company. It was carrying fish traps.

He said MMEA and other Malaysian authorities were still negotiating with the Indonesian side for the release of the boat and its crew quickly.

On that note, Musli advised the maritime fraternity in Sarawak to exercise caution and not get near the disputed waters to avoid similar incidents from happening again. He also assured that MMEA would continue to monitor and patrol the waters near the disputed areas to ensure the security and safety of Malaysian seafarers.

Oswazir relating to reporters his ordeal.

Meanwhile, the 47-year-old skipper of the `Nemo’, Abang Abdul Oswazir Abang Ahmad, said he was thankful for the swift actions of the Malaysian authorities to have them released from detention.

He confirmed that the Indonesians treated them well during their captivity.

“There are 14 of us. Three are crew members, including me, and 11 are sports fishing enthusiasts.

“We were fishing happily that morning when around 9am the Indonesian Navy approached us. We were then detained and were escorted to their Navy base at Pulau Batang in the Natuna Besar Islands, some 110 nautical miles from where we were intercepted,” Oswazir related his first-ever ordeal in being detained by the Indonesian Navy to reporters.

He said they only arrived at the navy base around 1am on Thursday, March 14.

Meanwhile, former Stampin MP Julian Tan praised the efforts of the MMEA and other agencies for their swift action to get all on board home safely. — DayakDaily