Malaysia is the member of First United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNICLOS I) -1958, Second United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNICLOS II) -1960) and Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNICLOS III) -1982. Thus, during the period leading to Malaysia’s ratification of the LOSC (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) in 1996, many written national laws of the sea were established. These include the declaration of Malaysia’s exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles vide the Exclusive Economic Zone Act, 1984 (ACT 311) and the proclamation of the legislation pertaining to conservation, management and development of maritime and estuarine fishing and fisheries provided for in the FISHERIES ACT. 1985(ACT 317).
Of particular important was the underlying Malaysia’s proclamation of the EEZ on 25th April 1980 by Dato Hussein Onn, Prime Minister of Malaysia. It declared and proclaimed that Federation of Malaysia shall have:
1) Sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the sea-bed and subsoil and the superadjacent waters, and with regards to other activities for the economic zone, such as the production of energy from water, currents and winds.
2) Jurisdiction with regards to:
i) The establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures
ii) Marine scientific research
iii) The preservation of the marine environment in the exclusive economic zone which is hereby established and that such exclusive economic zone extends to 200 nautical miles from the baseline which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
The Minister of Law Malaysia reported in BERNAMA on 22 May 1980 stated that the proclamation of the EEZ would allow Malaysia to venture into deep-sea fishing in deep-waters, which had been explored by foreign fisherman. The Minister recognized the interests of foreign fishing vessel from Thailand and South Korea and Vietnam in our EEZ area and encouraged joint venture and support of the respective Government – to exploit the abundant fisheries resources in the Malaysian EEZ.
October 2, 1996, Dato Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Foreign Minister of Malaysia signed on behalf of Malaysian Government the instrument of ratification to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The ratification of the LOSC by Malaysia was significant and it is a confirmation by the Government of Malaysia to faithfully undertake the performance and execution of the stipulation contained in the 1982 Convention.
We should recognize that Malaysia is a member of Group 77 who at UNCLOS II fought hard in favour of coastal state sovereignty and sovereign rights over an expanded area of maritime zones. Therefore, Malaysia’s proclamation of the EEZ followed by the ratification of the LOSC fortifies Malaysia’s quest to develop its management of surrounding seas and resources. In line with this, it is not an overstatement to say that Malaysia’s policy with regard to national ocean affairs thus, its acceptance of the LOSC, respect its national priority and requirements regarding its marine affairs.
As a responsible sovereign nation, and in meeting at least, minimal international duties and obligations, it is imperative that the government of Malaysia and the various stakeholders recognize that Malaysia is party to many maritime treaties and that Malaysia honours such treaties. This is vital in order that Malaysia is seen not only at the international level as a state which its commitment and its abreast with international aspirations, but also, at the domestic level, is seen as a government which is desirous of pursuing national interest beyond national boundries.
In our endeavor to achieve the status of a developed nation-in which the maritime sector has been identified as one of the major players expected to contribute to the realization of “vision 2020” – it is reasonable to allude to the concept of ‘Malaysia Incorporated’ in the process of making such decisions of great consequence. In strengthening this spirit, government and industrial players should cooperate in contributing to the development of legal and administrative requirement, which would increase transparency, encourage cross interpolation of information and eradicate cumbersome procedures.
Rules were needed only to prevent direct conflict through poor planning or misunderstanding but in recent times, rules, regulations and laws are needed not only to rationalize planning and management of activities but also to command and impose sustainability of specific activities. The saying “when the state is most corrupt, there are most laws” advocated by Roman, TACTIUS does not hold water in modern times.
Actions toward endorsing the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea at the National Level should be given priority if Malaysia is serious about managing its marine environment in a consistent, clear and appropriate manner. It is perhaps reasonable to suggest that the following proposals are considered by relevant government agencies for expeditious implementation in order that the needs and interests of all stakeholders of Malaysia’s vast marine environment are adequately met. The following is recommended:
The Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry (YB Dato Seri Noh Omar), Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry,(YB Dato Johari Baharum), and Director General of Department of Fisheries Malaysia (YH Dato Ahmad Sabki Mahmood) should be replaced because each of them failed to recognizes the complexity of ocean-related matters both at the domestic level and within the region, stipulated in UNICLOS III and EEZ ACT 1984 and Fisheries ACT 1985.. As an important and responsible member of ASEAN both the Minister and Deputy Minister from Malaysia failed in their duties to complement the roles of industrial players such as deep-sea fisherman with respect to contribution and struggle to enhanced EEZ. They have given the wrong impression to Prime Minister of Malaysia by making remarks and statement accusing the wrong doing and be littled the cooperation currently exist and have taking place between the deep-sea fisherman/players from Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.
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