Press Statement by Mr. Lim Kit Siang, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka on 12 September 1973:
Lim Kit Siang Calls on the Malacca Acting Chief Minister, Dato Tan Chang Swee to take a personal interest in the sufferings of the Malacca fishermen who are victims of high-sea piracy and kidnapping
The Malacca Acting Chief Minister Dato Tan Cheng Swee said yesterday that families of the missing fishermen in Malacca should report to the police so that the Foreign Ministry could take up with the Indonesian Authorities on the disappearance of 60 Malaysian fishermen and their fishing boats.
Dato Tab Cheng Swee also expressed sympathy for the affected families and suggested that they quickly make their report to the police so that the Central Government can take up the matter through the proper foreign channel.
This is the first time after close to a month since the disappearance of the 60 Malacca fishermen that Dato Tan Cheng Swee has expresses his concern, although he was aware of it right from the beginning.
Dato Tan Cheng Swee was the first person the Malacca fishermen and affected families went to see last month when the 24 Malacca fishing boats and the fishermen were detained in International waters in the Straits of Malacca by armed pirates in naval uniform in gun-boats of a neighbouring country.
But Dato Tan Cheng Swee turned them away and refused to help on the ground that the complaint was nothing new.
Over the years, the Malacca fishermen have been victims of high-sea piracy and kidnapping by armed uniformed naval personnel, and despite their repeated complaints and reports to the police and the Government authorities, they have never bee able to get any assistance or redress from the Government.
Their experience tells them that not only are the authorities unwilling to help them to get the release of the kidnapped fishermen and fishing vessels, they are bullied by the Malaysian authorities for causing trouble in making the report.
The fishermen’s families are also fearful of the threats and warnings by the high-sea pirates and kidnappers who demanded ransom payment of $3000 for each fishing vessels and $300 for each fishermen detained and that no report should be made to the Malaysian authorities or the kidnapped fishermen would suffered in life and health.
It is no wonder therefore having received no help in the past from the authorities and fearful of the safety of their loved ones the affected families dare not make any official report. This was why last month some fishermen representatives called on Dato Tan Cheng Swee in his house for help only to be rebuffed.
It is not too late however for Dato Tan Cheng Swee to help the Malacca fishermen by making full use of his office and powers as acting Chief Minister of Malacca. Dato Tan Cheng Swee should call all the affected fishermen and families to a conference in his office and hear their complaints and grievances and assure them of full Government concern. Dato Tan Cheng Swee should arrange for the police and the Foreign ministry to send top officials to his meeting so that the Malacca and Federal authorities can jointly and immediately take concrete measures not only to secure the release of the missing Malacca fishermen but also to protect the legitimate right of the Malacca fishermen to fish in International waters without fear of organized high-sea piracy and kidnapping.
I therefore urge Dato Tan Cheng Swee to take a personal interest and without any further delay take the initiative to involve the various State and Central departments concerned to free the Malacca fishermen from the plague of high-sea piracy victimisation and kidnapping.