Statement by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at a press conference at 33A Jalan Munshi Abdullah, Malacca on Wednesday, 19th Sept. 1973 at 10.45 a.m.
Lim Kit Siang calls on the Ministry of Fisheries and Foreign Ministry to have urgent discussion with Indonesian authorities to demarcate the international waters in the Straits of Malacca and to make arrangements to enable Malacca and other Malaysian fishermen to pursue their livelihood in the spirit of ASEAN fraternity and solidarity
I have called this press conference to bring to the attention of the government and public the plight, suffering and hardship of the 600 Malacca fishermen of all races who for the past one month had not dared to go out to fish in international waters in the Straits of Malacca.
This followed the disappearance of 22 Malacca fishing boats in the high sea a month ago. It was subsequently reported in the press that the five boats had returned after paying ransom money of $3000 each. There are still 17 boats in detention, and which have not returned.
In the past, the ransom money per boat had been only a few hundred dollars. Then it began to rise, and recently it was in the region of $1000. Now, it is $3000.
For fishermen, whose total earnings a year do not exceed $3000, it is clearly an impossible figure for them to raise. It is for this reason, that for a month, the 300 fishing vessels of Malacca had been couped up in the Malacca waterfront.
This is a serious problem, as the number of people in Malacca dependent on fishing as a livelihood is easily in the region of 4000. Apart from the sharp rise in the price of fish in the market as a result of the fear of Malacca fishermen to go out and fish in international waters in the Straits of Malacca, the more serious problem of the 4000 people dependent on fishing getting the basic means to meet their daily needs for food, clothing, and their children’s educational expenses is even more acute.
For a month, the Malacca fishermen had hoped and waited for the Malacca State Government and the Malaysian authorities to step in and help them solve their dilemma of livelihood, but no government concern appeared to have been shown about their plight and suffering,
I call on the Ministry of Fisheries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask for an urgent meeting with the Indonesian authorities to hold talks to demarcate clearly the international waters and work out arrangements whereby Malacca and other Malaysian fishermen can pursue their livelihood in the Straits of Malacca in peace and safety without constant fear of harassment and interference.
The Malaysian authorities should seek to work out this accord on fishing activities by Malaysian fishermen with the Indonesian authorities in the spirit of ASEAN fraternity, solidarity and co-operation, as both Malaysia and Indonesia are both members of the ASEAN which is formed as the first step to bring about closer regional co-operation in economic matters.
I also call on the Malacca State Government, under Acting Chief Minister Datuk Tan Cheng Swee, to use all the influence of the government it commands, to make high-level representations to the Central Government to impress on them the urgency and seriousness of this problem.
With the joint and collective efforts of the Malacca and Malaysian Government, I am sure a working arrangement can be concluded with the Indonesian authorities to permit Malaysian fishermen to fish in international waters in the Straits of Malacca in harmony, peace and without incidents.
What is needed now, is that the Malacca State Government and the Central Government should take upon themselves this duty to help the Malacca fishermen.
As a Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, I will myself do all that I can to help the Malacca fishermen to get their problems attended to by the authorities concerned.
17 unreturned fishing boats
There are 17 boats and 35 fishermen who have not yet returned, after three weeks of mishap.
The large number of these 35 fishermen are poor and as a result of their mishap, their dependants, such as old mother, wife, infant children, were left destitute without food for three weeks. Many of their dependants were forced to beg or borrow just to get money to keep their body and soul together, while they wait for their wage-earners to be released.
I call on the Malacca State Government and the Acting Chief Minister, Datuk Tan Cheng Swee, to give financial assistance to these affected families, to ensure that dependant families of the detained fishermen are not forced into privation and destitution.
The Malacca State Government should also ask the Ministry of Social Welfare to give social assistance, so that the dependent families of the detained fishermen can get joint assistance.
This is something which the Malacca state Government and the Acting Chief Minister, Datuk Tan Cheng Swee, can do, and do immediately.