Taskforce to stop foreign fishermen

MMEA, Immigration Department spearheading efforts to stop illegal immigrants fishing in state waters

MIRI: Reacting to The Borneo Posts report of foreign fishermen fishing in the states waters, the Miri Division Security Committee has set up two taskforce to track down the illegal immigrants and stop their activities.

Assistant Minister of Communication Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) would head one of the units while the other would be under the Immigration Department.

Security is a serious matter, which cannot be compromised. We want this problem of foreign fishermen in our state be tackled immediately, he said at a press conference after chairing a safety briefing at the Residents Office here yesterday.

Lee called on local people not to rent their houses or fishing boats to the illegal immigrants.

The assistant minister also reminded local fishermen to bring along their identity cards and boat licence while going out to sea.

During the briefing, Lee was updated on the presence of Suluk fishermen from the Philippines fishing off the coast here and staying in rented houses or squatters units by the river.

He also received a number of complaints from local fishermen and members of the public on the threat posed by these illegal immigrants.

Some of the complainants showed photographs of the illegal fishermen and their boats to Lee, informing him of the places where they are putting up.

Meanwhile, the foreign fishermen are now playing hide and seek game as MMEA and the Marine Fisheries Department are now locating their landing sites and their fishingboats.

They are hiding their boats by berthing them at various locations along the Miri river for fear of being detected by the authorities, a fisherman, Kamberi Bakar, 50, said to The Borneo Post yesterday.

Kamberi brought the reporters accompanied by another local fisherman, Masni Jana, in his fishing boat to take photographs of the locations where the foreigners were hiding their vessels.

During the cruise in the Miri River, boats belonging to the foreign fishermen were located at Kampung Wireless (one boat), Miri, Piasau Utara (one boat), Kampung Pasir, Lutong (three boats), Kampung Pengkalan, Lutong (two boats), Squarters at Pujut 7 bridge ( five boats) and Pujut Adong (three boats).

When pictures of the boats were taken at Pujut 7 bridge squatter colony, several men came out to the veranda facing Miri River and took photographs of Kamberis boat.

According to Kamberi, the foreign fishermen had on several occasions acted menacingly towards local fishermen when they came close to each other.

He added the foreigners avoided the enforcement officers by setting out to sea at midnight and returning to shore early in the morning.

These are hours when the enforcement officers were usually not patrolling the waters; thats why they were never caught.

We are worried if their activities are not stopped and their number kept increasing, incidents such as that at Lahad Datu could happen, he said.