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Commotion over fee hike at Safma jetty

Published on: Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: A commotion broke out among fishing boat operators and owners when they were imposed a surcharge of RM4 per basket of fish at the Sabah Fish Marketing Sdn Bhd (Safma), here, early Wednesday.

The fishing boat owners were not allowed to bring in their catch at the Safma jetty unless they paid the surcharge which was previously RM1 in the 1.30am incident.

According to Kota Kinabalu Fishing Boat Owners' Association Chairman Simon Hong, since the privatisation of Safma, things seemed to turn from bad to worse.

"First they charged us RM1 for a basket of fish but now they want us to pay RM4," he said.

"There are about 800 baskets of fish coming in at the fish landing jetty every night and this means that Safma fetches a total of RM3,200 from the us everyday," he said. "We are here to earn a living but how do they expect us to earn if they charge us this much."

Also present was DAP Likas Assemblyman Junz Wong, who is also DAP Sabah Organising Secretary. He came to the scene after the fishing boat operators alerted him of the incident.

A 45-year-old fish vendor, Elina Alipuddin, from Kg. Sembulan, claimed that those at the Safma jetty refused to let them in if RM4 was not paid for each basket of fish.

She said those at the Safma jetty had closed the gate for the past two days since the new fee was imposed.

KKFBOA and representative of the retailers want the State Government to step in and resolve the problem in the form of extra expenses faced by them, following the privatisation of Safma.

This was stated in a joint memorandum submitted by its Chairman Simon Hong together with representatives of the retailers Elena Alipudin and Sadik Ebu, with the DAP Sabah Youth's assistance, to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman at the State Legislative Assembly.

Elena and Sadik told reporters later that since the privatisation of Safma last year, they have been paying extra for doing business at the Safma premises.

"We now have to pay a 'toll' of RM4 for a basket of fish we buy and the charges do not even include service like carrying the seafood to our vehicles or to the stalls where we sell them," they said.

The stall charges have also increased more than two fold since the privatisation exercise as we are now paying between RM600 and RM800 per month now compared to only RM350 across the board last year, they further said.

They also claimed the two companies have posted 'bouncers' at the Safma premises to collect the 'toll' which must be paid in cash.

"We are poor people, sometimes we buy the fish on credit as we have no ready cash in hand and will pay the suppliers when we have the moneyÉ if we cannot pay the RM4 per basket, we are not allowed to take the fish out of the premises so how can we earn a living," said Elena and Sadik who represented about 80 retailers there.

They also complained about the RM2 charge for a bag of ice imposed for ice brought in from outside Safma. "But sometimes we have to buy from outside as there is not enough ice supply in Safma. Without ice our fish will rot," they charged.

Hong hoped that the State Government will intervene and assist them because the extra charges have caused fishing boats from outside the State Capital to shy away from unloading their catch in Safma.

Hong said they hoped the State Government could assist like what the Federal Government does in the peninsula, that is by giving incentives to fishermen there.

"We are already burdened by high expenditure in the form of wages and higher fuel price so why make the matter worse by all these additional charges imposed by the two companies," he said adding that seafood is a huge industry for Sabah so it must be protected.

Likas Assemblyman Junz Wong, who is also DAP Sabah Organising Secretary, meanwhile said they are assisting KKFBOA to apply for an injunction against the two companies that are now managing Safma.

He said the injunction application which will be filed by next week is on the privatisation of Safma which had resulted in the defeating of its actual purpose.

"I have spoken to Safma Chairman Datuk Jaujan Sambakong and he said that he will look into the allegations of the extra charges imposed by the two companies," Wong said, adding that if the problem can be resolved, there will be no need to file the injunction application.