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Friday May 23, 2008

Long wait for verdict on island

JOHOR BARU: Fishermen in Pengerang are keeping their fingers crossed that the Pulau Batu Puteh verdict will be in Malaysia's favour.

The 1,500-strong fishing community cannot curb their impatience to return to the sea there, which is abundant with marine life.

They have been prevented from fishing in the area for the past 20 years due to Malaysia and Singapore's overlapping claims on the island.

Pengerang Fishermen's Association chairman Abu Bakar Mohamad said if the verdict goes Malaysia's way, the fishermen's livelihood would be uplifted.

“The area has remained untouched for many years and the amount of marine life available there is significant,” he said, adding that the waters off the island were rich in mackerel, pomfret and grouper fish.

Abu Bakar said that with the increased number of members, a larger zone was needed to support increasing demand for seafood.

He said fishermen who encroached near the island in the past were chased away by the Singapore marine police stationed there.

“We will be following the International Court of Justice's decision closely,” he added.

It is learnt that the Johor Fisheries Department advised fishermen during a briefing yesterday that they should accept whatever verdict calmly.

RTM will telecast live the ICJ's decision from The Hague at 4pm.

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