KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 ― An Amanah lawmaker claims there are inadequate penalties imposed on foreign fishermen caught trespassing in Malaysian waters.
Kuala Terengganu MP Datuk Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah also alleged of a syndicate protecting such trespassers, resulting in up to RM6 billion in local catches being smuggled out.
He claimed his constituents were upset that the reported arrests did not result in prosecution.
“After being remanded for two to three days, their bosses would come and bail them out. If the fishing vessel was seized, it will be out in a week or two. There's too many hidden hands and godfathers behind the scene,” he told reporters in the Parliament compound today.
“In Indonesia, they seize the boats and set it on fire. The foreign fishermen are imprisoned for a very long time. Here, we may have the laws but the enforcement isn't strict and there's too many leeways.”
Under the Malaysian Fisheries Act 1985, foreign fishermen or vessels caught in local waters are liable to a fine not exceeding RM1 million each in the case of the owner or master, and one hundred thousand ringgit in the case of every member of the crew.
Raja Kamarul also questioned the wisdom behind the government's plan to arm fishermen so they may confront foreign fishermen, particularly the Vietnamese.
“It is the responsibility of the government to protect the fishermen not run away from their responsibility and protect this syndicate. It is irrational to arm our fishermen because they have other responsibilities instead of risking their lives,” said Raja Kamarul Bahrin.
He accused the government of lacking the political will to properly enforce the law.
Earlier during the question and answer session at the Lower House, Minister in Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim responded to Raja Kamarul's questions to say that there has been improvement in this area.
Shahidan pointed out that, in 2017, there were 147 arrests compared to 108 in 2016.