PKR queries who is benefiting from Fisheries Dept’s move

(Daily Express) Kota Kinabalu: A lack of integrity and transparency between the State and Federal governments is to blame for the overlapping authority on the fisheries industry in Sabah, claims Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

"The current issue of overlapping authority on the fisheries industry in Sabah speaks volumes of the failure of good administration and lack of mutual respect on the respective authorities," its Vice President, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, said in a statement, Friday.

He said the State Government should not allow the Federal Government to usurp its right in order to protect the local fisheries industry.

"The Federal authorities should be consistent. Why must our State Fisheries Department endorse the Federal fisheries department? If there is overlapping authority, it should be referred to the State Government.

"We support the local industry and the local association. Don't create a perceived overlapping, only to pave a way for another federal authority to supercede another State authority later," he said.

Meanwhile, PKR Sabah Public Complaints Bureau Chief, Christina Liew, questioned the rationale behind the decision to allow foreigners to fish in Sabah waters, be they in the form of vessels or crew.

She said given the sharp decline in fish catch in recent years, what was intriguing was the fact that the licence was issued by the Federal Fisheries Director-General based on recommendations of the State Fisheries Department.

"It would be interesting to know why the State Fisheries Department made such recommendations, knowing fully well the plight of local fishermen. It appears that the Government is oblivious to the problems confronting our fishermen.

"Don't tell me the Federal Government is ignorant of what is happening in Sabah. We wonder who is actually benefiting from the move to allow the Vietnamese to fish in Sabah waters," she said.

Liew, who is PKR Sabah Deputy Chairperson, said if the Barisan Nasional (BN) Government was a "caring government" as claimed, then it should revoke the licence in the interest of the economic well-being of Sabah's fishermen.

She said the State Fisheries Department must now assure Sabahans that the joint venture does not contain an ali-baba element in which the Vietnamese, through indirect means, may have total say over the fish haul since it is their people doing the fishing anyway.

She noted that the Vietnamese have a terrible fishing record in Malaysian waters that have included many court convictions for scooping up exotic fish species and endangered turtles.

In this connection, she was also glad that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is also now taking an interest on environmental issues with its reported monitoring of Forestry and Department of Environment, both under the Federal Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, on suspicion of having links with illegal loggers.