TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Since Susi Pudjiastuti was appointed Maritime Affairs and Fisheries minister four months ago, her mission has been quite simple, and that is increase domestic fish production. But she also wants Indonesian fish exports to increase in the world market.
According to Susi, all that can be achieved by eliminating fish theft, which for years had been carried out by other countries operating on Indonesian waters.
She is sure her policy will be effective enough to break the supply chain of countries which have been stealing from Indonesian waters. But Susi is aware that the government's plan to regulate the licensing of big boats, especially those from Taiwan and China, can be difficult. Ironically, the hardest challenge has come from the domestic companies. "They are the ones who steal the fish," she said, in an interview at her official residence in south Jakarta.
Many foreign fishing boats manage to escape after paying some money. Why is this still happening?
That's in the past. Would they be doing it under my watch? My orders are clear: catch the boat then sink it or confiscate it for the state. There must be no more extortion. If I find any illicit transaction, I will take serious action against them.
Since the moratorium, which companies have declared their compliance?
The only one who used to have foreign boats and come clean is Tomy Winata. His papers are clear, although if we trace it further, he is collaborating with a Chinese company. But at least it's clear. Meanwhile, the other businessmen are unreliable and the status of their boats are unclear, like Tex Suryawijaya. He thinks because he's a strong man, he can get away with it.
Why do many of them refuse to come into the open?
The fisheries industry is a mysterious one. The identity of the businesses behind them are unclear and they operate like a crime syndicate. Try asking a ship's crew who their boss is. There are bound to answer that they don't know. And they have been dismissed just like that. Tex Suryawijaya, for example, refuses to admit that Pusaka Benzina is his company. Meanwhile, the one owned by Husni Manggabarani is just a broker company who takes in fees.
What will be the next steps after the moratorium ends?
I don't want to see foreign boats operating on Indonesian waters. I ask all related businesses to return those ships home. I told them not to expect their boats to operate after the moratorium. If they don't come home, I will do something and confiscate them because they are all problematic.
What if the companies who employ those boats complain?
What proof is there that they own those boats? If the boats are owned by Indonesian businesses, why do the governments of Thailand and China want to see me? But if they persist, I will confiscate their boats.
Which ones have been willing to bring the boats back?
One of them is Tomy Winata. He wants to break off his relationship with his Chinese partners and return the boats back to China. Yoris Raweyai is also willing to do the same. The other companies seem unsure about their commitment.
Why not use the money to build the fisheries industry in the country?
The boats are too big and cannot be used for sustainable fishing. In their original countries, those boats can no longer operate and would be used as scrap metal. In Japan and China, for example, only small boats are allowed to operate. Their big boats are used to steal fish in other countries.
So, what will the policy be like, going forward?
Only small boats will be allowed to operate in Indonesia, controlled by Indonesian companies, using Indonesian boats, and the catches to be carried out by Indonesians. Foreign companies will be asked to invest, but only in the processing and marketing sectors. It's time the fishermen stop importing fish. (*)