Minister rapped for remarks on fish bombing

Equipment confiscated by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency believed to be used in fish bombing near Malundangan island in January 2017. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Opposition leaders in Sabah have hit out at Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub for his recent remarks on fish bombing, accusing him of not taking the matter seriously.

Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee questioned Salahuddin’s knowledge of such activities, calling him “a typical example of ministers who are eager to sound smart without knowing the facts on the ground”.

“He is not an exception,” the Sabah Progressive Party president told FMT.

Salahuddin had dismissed the notion that fish bombing has become more rampant in the country, following the deaths of three divers from a blast off Kalapuan Island, Semporna last Friday.

Yong Teck Lee.

He told reporters at Parliament yesterday that fish bombing is rare these days although still a problem.

He also said he would wait for the full police report before making further comments.

Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik also played down the incident, describing it as an isolated case and saying it would not stop tourists from visiting Sabah.

Sabah Umno Youth chief Abdul Aziz Julkarnain said Salahuddin’s remarks were disappointing.

“It was as though he was living in a different galaxy, oblivious to present reality,” he said.

He added that the minister would have known about the issue if he had kept abreast of media reports on fish bombing activities.

According to marine police, he said, 30 cases had been probed under the Fisheries Act 1985 and Explosives Act 1957 from January to June this year.

Abdul Aziz Julkarnain.

A Malaysian navy special operations personnel was also killed in a blast from a fish bomb at Sungai Pengkalan Merbau in Setiu, Kuala Terengganu on Feb 7.

“Marine police also seized 670kg of fish believed to have been caught using bombs after arresting a man in Tiga Papan waters off Kudat on March 22.

“Four men were also arrested in separate raids in Besut recently, following a fish bombing case in waters off Taman Laut, Pulau Perhentian on May 16,” Aziz said.

He said stern action should be taken against the culprits as such activities not only destroy the ecosystem but jeopardise the diving and tourism industries as well.

“What’s more worrying is that the Semporna incident involved tourists. This could kill the tourism industry,” he said, adding that Sabah depends on tourism receipts as a major source of income.

He also took Shafie Apdal to task, saying the Semporna MP had failed in his duty as chief minister as well as chairman of the Sabah security council.

“I urge the chief minister to start working on the matter and to be firm on the issue, particularly in pressuring the federal government to allocate reasonable funds to beef up security,” he said, adding that “the honeymoon is over”.

He also questioned the budget cuts on security in Budget 2019, saying the previous Barisan Nasional administration had allocated RM14 billion for this compared to RM5.9 billion by Pakatan Harapan.