Fishbomber kids: Ex-chief judge ticks off Sabah minister
Published on: Wednesday, February 19, 2020
By: David Thien
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KOTA KINABALU: Former Chief Judge of Malaysia Tan Sri Richard Malanjum (pic) ticked off a Sabah Cabinet Minister for making light of the serious fishbombing problem plaguing Sabah by saying that those involved were just children.

Malanjum, who is noted for his passion for the environment, said: “Fish bombing is still going around. Two weeks ago, at one of the islands, a Minister said ‘oh, all these are done by kids.’ 

“Kids? They were still holding a bomb. So, kids can do bombing now! You can see the lame excuses given. It’s very, very sad.

“Bombs in the hands of kids are still bombs,” he said in disbelief at the reasoning by State Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Datuk Junz Wong, at a session at the Borneo Colloquium on Environmental Justice 2020 at Hyatt Regency.

Divers recently said they recorded no less than 80 incidences over six months of fishbombs going off in Sabah waters. Some felt Sabah Parks was cheating the tourists by collecting a conservation fee from divers in Park areas but turning a blind eye to the problem.

Worse, they said, if they lose their hearing or their lives as happened last year to two China tourists and a diver who succumbed to internal organ injuries due to the impact of the blasts underwater off Semporna. The marine authorities, particularly MMEA, was also blamed by the divers.

 Malanjum stressed the urgency to protect the environment and, in this case, destruction of coral reefs was irreparable to Sabah’s tourism.

He also hoped environmental seminars would not be Nato – no action, talk only. “Otherwise we are no better than a talk shop. Today we want to bring something positive especially for the environment court.”

By extension, it was feared that these kids playing with explosives would see them grow up getting involved in terrorism as in the Philippines. The children in Pulau Gaya are mostly descendants of documented and undocumented Filipino migrants.

Fisheries Department personnel attending the session confided that illegal immigrants responsible for such crimes should be deported since fish bombing was the only way for them to survive economically.

The session was told that the detonators were smuggled in from the Philippines and investigations were needed to trace the source which was not within the scope of the department, but the law enforcement agencies of two countries as to how this flow of dangerous material could be checked.

It was said that the fertilizer component of the explosive mixture would be difficult to control for sale to non-agriculture practitioners.

Tawau Sessions Court Judge Awang Kerisnada Bin Haji Awang Mahmud said cases of blast fishing or fish bombing in Tawau and Semporna reduced by 50 per cent after he started meting out deterrent sentences to offenders.

It was suggested that whipping on offenders would greatly deter any such means of fishing and bring down the crime rate of this explosive method further.

Eric Yu of the Sabah Shark Protection Association suggested that the coastal communities be encouraged to grow and prosper from seaweed cultivation as neighbouring Indonesia earned millions exporting to China and other countries, as a way to wean them of the ease of indulging in blast fishing.

Meanwhile, Malanjum also raised the recent incidences of pygmy elephant deaths in Sabah and how nothing happened after calling for investigations into the cases.

A student from UMS wanted to know how the system could assure justice in rural areas when there is not even a master plan for the city in force. He was referring to the local KK Plan not being gazetted due to interference from politicians with vested interests.

To this Malanjum replied: “Why complain when you voted in the wrong people? Vote in the right people who can do the work. Unfortunately, in this country, town planning is a very good source of revenue for some people.”


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