Struggling Kimanis fisherfolk pin hope on new MP for brighter future

Kampung Binsulok is a peaceful and beautiful fishing village situated along a mangrove river in Membakut, a state constituency under the Kimanis parliamentary seat.

BEAUFORT: Tranquil, beautiful and laidback – that is probably the best way to describe Kampung Binsulok, a traditional fishing community which comes under Membakut, a state constituency under the Kimanis parliamentary seat.

Awang Bulat Asat.

Nestled on the banks of a mangrove river, the village is home to mostly traditional fishermen while some, especially the younger generation, have gone on to do small businesses or work with the private and government sectors.

But for Awang Bulat Asat, living off the sea has been in his blood for as long as he can remember.

Despite the allure of modern living and jobs that could offer a more comfortable and easier lifestyle, the 62-year-old father of 10 remains loyal to a profession which has provided for his family for almost half a century and he is proud to continue the family tradition.

The tranquil feeling at Kampung Binsulok as the day gives way to night.

“My parents have always been fishermen. Besides a bit of carpentry, it is all I know to make an honest living.

“The oceans and rivers have been my ‘office’ since I was 16. And now, all my children, aged 22 to 37, are fishermen,” Awang told FMT.

Awang Bulat Asat carries a jerrycan to his boat as he prepares to go out to sea.

But while most of the villagers are generally content with being fishermen, Awang said they were finding it harder to survive.

Dwindling catch, bad weather and the reduction in the cost of living aid (ESH) for fishermen have all played a part, said Awang, whose main catch are the “bubuk” or tiny shrimps and “ikan bilis” (anchovies) – sea products Kimanis is famous for.

Zulkifli Gapar.

Fellow fisherman Zulkifli Gapar said although the reduction of the ESH by the PH government from RM300 to RM200 might not seem like much to a lot of people, it had been a blow to the villagers.

Having been a fisherman since he was 18, Zulkifli said the weather had prevented him from going out to sea more often.

“We are the ones feeling the impact as we deal with the uncertainties of going out to sea, not to mention the safety risk we face out there.

“On good days we can make anywhere from RM2,000 to RM3,000 a month from selling our catch.

“But, there are not many good days anymore. That extra RM100 (in the ESH) would have made a lot of difference to my family,” Zulkifli said.

That is why, he said, the villagers are pinning their hopes on the new Kimanis MP to highlight their plight to Putrajaya.

Flags of political parties contending for the Kimanis seat occupy the road leading to Kampung Binsulok.

He added that when Barisan Nasional was in power, there was other assistance available besides the original RM300 fishermen’s allowance.

“Previously, we received nets, outboard engines and also boats. I don’t know why the situation is different now but we do hope things will change for the better soon,” he said.

While Zulkifli is unsure who to vote for, Awang believes the Warisan-led government needs more time to get things right.

A fisherman’s family members helping to unravel fishing nets in Kampung Binsulok.

“I believe they need time to solve the people’s woes – they have not been ruling for even a term yet so we need to be patient.

“It’s like moving into a new house… you can’t expect to have all the furniture all at once.

“I think it’s better for (Warisan’s) Karim (Bujang) to win because Warisan is the ruling government so we can have the same, if not better, assistance than what we received when Umno was the government,” he said.

Awang said the village has over 1,000 voters, a majority of whom are Brunei Malays.

Warisan’s Karim and Barisan Nasional’s Mohamad Alamin are contenders for the Kimanis parliamentary by-election on Jan 18.