by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, on Wednesday, 19th August 1981:
Minister of Agriculture, Datuk Haji Abdul Manan, promises to consider sympathetically the extension of the three-month period to permit the use of 1.5 inch mesh net for trawler fishermen until a comprehensive scheme is worked out to resolve the problems of the trawler fishermen.
I met the Minister of Agriculture, Datuk Haji Abdul Manan bin Haji Othman, at Wisma Tani, Kuala Lumpur yesterday, and I discussed with him the problems faced by the trawler fishermen in pantai Remis, the Dindings area and generally in the country because of the new Fisheries Regulations.
The new fisheries Regulations prohibit trawler fishing boats of 40 tons and below from fishing within five miles of the shore, as compared to three miles previously, and prohibits the use of nets whose mesh size is less than 1.5 inches, as compared to 1 inch previously.
I urged on the Minister of Agriculture, Datuk Abdul Manan, that the Fisheries Regulations should be held in abeyance and the trawler fishermen be allowed beyond the three-mile limit as previously, and be allowed to use 1 inch mesh net.
In Perak alone, there are 1,600 licensed trawlers. Each of these trawlers employs two or three workers. In addition, there are about 15 to 20 prawn factories and two ice-factories in the Dindings and Pantai Remis areas, processing and packing prawns for the local and foreign markets, employing some 2,000 workers.
The new Fisheries Regulations therefore threaten the livelihood of no less than 7,000 workers.
While the government seeks to protect the inshore fishermen and conserve fishing grounds, the government must not do it in such a way as to destroy the livelihood of some 7,000 people and their larger number of dependants.
I reminded the Minister of Agriculture that it was the government which was responsible in the 1960s in encouraging the presented affected trawler fishermen to convert to trawling. The government therefore has a moral duty and obligation to ensure that they are not placed in a position where they suffer great losses financially and face other economic hardships, as many of them are still in the process of trying to complete payment of their trawler boats and gears.
I urged on the Minister that until and unless the Government could come out with a comprehensive and long-term scheme to protect the interests of the 7,000 workers now dependent on trawler fishing and ancillary activities, like providing capital incentives to encourage them to go deep-sea fishing, or resettling them on land or aquaculture schemes, the trawler fishermen should be allowed to continue to operate as previously.
I pointed out that the three-month extension for the use of 1. inch mesh net size would expire on Nov.1, which is a short time, and there would be no sufficient time for any comprehensive package to be finalised to ensure that the interests of the 7,000 trawler fishermen and workers dependent on them in the prawn factories and ice factories survived under the new Fisheries Regulations.
The Agriculture Minister said that he would give sympathetic consideration to the extension of the three-month period for the continued permitted use of 1 inch mesh size net when the extension expires on nov.1, and gave his assurance that he would like to see a long-term and comprehensive, solution worked out to protect the livelihood of the 7,000 people dependent on trawler fishing in Perak.
Minister of Agriculture to discuss with Sarawak agriculture Minister plight of the pepper farmers in Sarawak .
I also discussed with the Minister of Agriculture the plight of the pepper farmers in the Sarawak, who are facing a major crisis because of the sharp fall in pepper price.
I just recently visited Sarawak, and I found it most sad to see the painful sight of pepper farmers chopping down their pepper, the major agricultural cash crop in Sarawak.
For two years, there had been a progressive price decline of pepper, slashing the incomes of pepper farmers to an extent where it has become completely uneconomic to continue to keep the pepper, losing all capital and labour investments in the pepper plants.
In 1978, the price of white pepper was as high as $360 a picul, but now it has fallen to around $210 per picul; while at the same time, the price of fertilisers had increased some 30%, insecticides increased by some 100%, with inflation rate galloping at the double-digit figure.
I urged the Agriculture Minister to work out an emergency relief scheme to help the pepper farmers in Sarawak face the crisi presently faced by the pepper industry, which is virtually on the brink of collapse.
The Pepper Marketing Board in Sarawak has failed to help the pepper farmers, when and Emergency Pepper Price Stabilisation Scheme should be created to prop up the pepper industry, which is responsible for over 60 per cent of world production.
The Agriculture Minister said he would discuss the matter with the Sarawak Agriculture Minister, as basically this comes within the province of the Sarawak State Government.
The DAP calls on the Federal and Sarawak State Government to implement of a joint contingency plan to help the pepper farmers, incorporation the following measures:
1. Start a government pepper stockpile to buy from pepper farmers both white and black pepper at reasonable prices;
2. Introduce a new subsidy to pepper farmers based on pepper production, as distinct from the present subsidy based on the number of pepper plants, which had been productive of great abuses, e.g. those with no plants get subsidy, while those with pepper plants not getting any subsidy; or those who receive subsidy do not use it for pepper planting;
3. Subsidise pepper farmers with regard to cheap fertilizers and insecticides;
4. Open up land by distributing land for pepper farmers to plant or diversify their crops to stabilise their incomes;
5. Overhaul the Pepper Marketing Board to find new markets for pepper through an aggressive salesmanship, and also to upgrade the quality of pepper to make it more competitive with pepper from other countries so as to protect Malaysia’s position as No. One producer of pepper being presently responsible for over 60 per cent of world production.