By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, on Tuesday, 14th August 1979:
DAP calls on Agriculture Ministers, Datuk Shariff Ahmad, to take two urgent measures to help fishermen in Pulau Ketam and Klang Pantei to make a decent livelihood: (1) to issue licensees to legalise the 1,500 trawler fishermen in Pulau Ketam; and (2) to amend the Fisheries Regulations on making of new fishing boats
For the 10,000 people on Pulau Ketam, fishing is their sole means of livelihood. The fishermen are also making an important contribution, not only to the economy of the country, but also to the health of the people.
Until recently, fish was readily available in the country at a price within the means of the ordinary people. Today, some fish are more expensive than either poultry or beef. Fish, however, still remained the cheapest source of animal protein in the country available today, and it is to the interest of the country and people that the Government should encourage and assist fishermen to increase fish catches.
Unfortunately, some aspects of the fishing policy and measures of the Government not only run counter to this objective of increasing fish catches, to make fish more available to all especially the poor by bringing down their prices through increased supply, but also resulted in depriving fishermen of their livelihood.
For instance, in Pulau Ketam, there are some 1,500 trawler boats which the Government has refused to issue with licenses, making them illegal fishing boats, and subject to confiscation by the fishing authorities on discovery by the Fishery authorities.
I understand that the Selangor Fishery Department had taken a policy decision not to issue licences to traveler boats of less than 25 tons.
By this policy decisions, some 1,500 trawler fishing boats of less than 25 tons have become illegal vessels and their fishermen unlawfully earning a livelihood. This is most unjustifiable, unfair and illogical. Such a policy cannot help the poor and low-income fishermen in Pulau Ketam and Klang Pantai areas who do not have huge capital to enable them to build 52-ton trawler boats, which cost $70,000 each.
The Government should help the people to lead a decent livelihood, and not force them through Government bureaucratic decisions, into illegal and unlawful occupations, perpetually harassed, victimised and persecuted by Fishery Officials for breaking unjust and inconsiderate fishery regulations made by bureaucrats in air-conditioned offices.
Before the Government introduces a new policy affecting the livelihood of the people, it is duty bound to ensure that this policy would not impose hardships on innocent and law-abiding people. For instance, before this policy to stop issuing licences to trawler boats of loss than 25 tons is implemented, the Government should ensure that those who presently have these types of boats would not suffer from the new policy. Licences should be issued to these vessels, with the clear understanding that only new boats of less than 25 tons would be affected by the new policy.
Secondly, it is doubtful that this policy is defensible even on the ground of wanting to protect inshore fishermen, as vessels less than 25 tons go out to international waters exceeding seven or nine miles for their catches.
I therefore call on the Minister of Agriculture, Datuk Shariff Ahmad, to review this policy aspect of issue of licences, and to take into account the livelihood of the fishermen involved, and to issue licences to legalise the 1,500 trawler fishermen in Pulau Ketam.
Call for amendments to Fisheries Regulations
Early this year, the Selangor Fisheries Department introduced new regulations governing the making of new boats which are licensed with Pukat Tunda and Pukat Jerut.
The Regulations stipulated that such new boats would only be permitted to be built on the condition of the destruction of existing boats or their certified sale to foreign countries.
This regulation is most unfair and unjust, for firstly, the fishermen would have no means of effecting sale of their boats to foreign countries, which transaction had first to be approved by the Fisheries Department. This means that they would be required to destroy their boats which are in good condition and of good value before they could replace them with new boats. This is to impose on fishermen financial losses which are unjust, illogical and wasteful.
Instead of forcing fishermen to destroy fishing boats which are still seaworthy, the Government should introduce a scheme to buy these boats from the fishermen and give them to fishing co-operatives in need of government assistance. Alternatively, the Government should compensate the fishermen for the destruction of these boats.
Finally, the Government appears to be working under the concept of freezing licences for fishermen, and limiting the number of legally permissible fishermen, when what the Fisheries Department should concern itself about is to find ways to increase the efficiency of Malaysian fishermen, not only to increase their incomes, but to increase fish landings for Malaysian consumption.
I call on the Agriculture Minister, Datuk Shariff Ahmad, to take these two urgent measures, to issue licences to the trawling boats and to amend the Fisheries Regulations, to help the Pulau Ketam and Klang Pantai fishermen earn a decent livelihood without fear of harassment and persecution by Fisheries officials.