Last four Indonesian fishermen detained in Kuala Lumpur return home

Apriadi Gunawan in Medan/The Jakarta Post
Asia News Network

Medan (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Indonesia's maritime affairs and fisheries ministry says that the last four of 94 Indonesian fishermen detained in Malaysia for allegedly trespassing the sea border between the two neighboring countries on the Malaka Strait have returned home.

The fishermen arrived at Polonia International Airport in Medan, North Sumatra, on Thursday (March 15), accompanied by several ministry officials.

The men, all residents of North Sumatra, were identified as Adi Syahputera, from Pangkalan BranLangkat; Awal and Syamsul Komar from Batubara, and Amir Khan of Deli Serdang.

The return of the four meant there were no longer any Indonesian fishermen being detained in Malaysia, maritime affairs and fisheries ministry's violations handling chief Yulistiyo Mudo said.

"The number of Indonesian fishermen detained in Malaysia used to reach 94. All of them have been sent back over the last five to six months," Yulistiyo said in Medan on Thursday.

He added that a total of 225 Indonesian fishermen had been detained by Malaysia and several other neighboring nations in recent years, including 90 detained by Australia, 20 by Palau, 12 by Timor Leste and seven by Papua New Guinea.

The seven fishermen detained in Papua New Guinea, although freed, have not returned to Indonesia since it would be expensive to pay for their airplane tickets home.

"We need a large amount of money to fly the seven men accused of involvement in illegal trading, not illegal fishing," Yulistiyo said, adding that it had not been expensive to detain the suspects on illegal fishing allegations.

Some of the fishermen who have returned to Indonesia were incarcerated overseas for as long as six months.

Syamsul Komar, one of the fishermen who returned to North Sumatra on Thursday, said that he was arrested by the Malaysian authorities in November for allegedly illegally fishing in Malaysian waters.

"We did not know at that time that our traditional boat had entered Malaysian waters. When we were arrested, our entire catch was confiscated by the Malaysian police," Syamsul said.

The 33-year-old said he felt dissatisfied, despite his return, although he added that he was pleased to be able to return to his village and see his family members and his three children.

Syamsul said that his experience in Malaysia had been traumatising and had made him hesitant to return to the sea in the future.

"I'm afraid of being arrested again. Maybe I catch fish again, but not until I am far away from the land," he added.