By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, July 8: Reasons given by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and Department of Fisheries such as insufficient fuel for patrol vessels and their unwillingness to pursue illegal foreign vessels for fear of reprisals have irked Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.
“Among the lame excuses are insufficient fuel for their patrol craft and shockingly, unwillingness to pursue illegal foreign vessels for fear of reprisals. Worst of all, they claim that upon being brought to court with sufficient testimonies and multimedia evidence, the detainees are released with no reasons disclosed,” he said, adding these remarks in no way were reassuring to the fishing community the enforcers are duty-bound to protect.
“To say the least, these excuses mean nothing to the fishermen who risk their lives out on our seas. They are unarmed and unprotected and the authorities must stop downplaying their situation. The quality of their training and administration seems to be worsening and not in line with the times. The officers responsible need to wake up!” Tiong said in a statement today.
As such he called on the federal government to disband these enforcement agencies if they are found to be incompetent.
“….it is the main duty of the maritime authorities to prevent these intrusions. If they do not even have this capability, I believe it is best to disband to transfer their tasks over to the Royal Malaysia Police’s Marine Operations Force,” he said.
Tiong who is also Bintulu MP was also dismayed to learn that a recent dialogue session on illegal fishing activity held recently between fishermen and other stakeholders has come to naught.
He also reminded certain politicians not to be mere speculators and not to use the dialogue as a platform for political mileage.
“These dialogues are held in vain and are a waste of resources and public funds. While marine supplies dwindle due to illegal vessels’ indiscriminate fishing of endangered fish species, our local fishermen are not able to meet local market demands.
“The local fishing community demands immediate action and tough retaliation on those illegal foreign vessels. Our maritime enforcement continues to be the laughing stock with as many as 30 illegal foreign vessels being seen in our waters. There are claims that foreign vessels had abused the licenses given to fish in our waters? This abuse is inexcusable and should be policed with maximum vigilance,” he said.
Tiong also asked if the excuses such as insufficient fuel for their operations would be addressed by the minister concerned.
“Or does the federal government intend to continue using the stories of bankruptcy, rising national debt and misappropriated funds to avoid their responsibilities and instead spend the money on paying for yet another national car project?,” he asked.
Tiong was also critical of the Pakatan Harapan federal government which had often criticised the previous government and called for high standards of performance, but he said their performance as the government of the day has left much to be desired.
“Previously, the maritime authorities were much more active in detaining illegal fishermen and their vessels. It is a far cry from today’s shoddy performance.”
He also said the director-general of the MMEA should be held responsible for deteriorating performance and that his position should have been given strict review a long time ago. — DayakDaily