Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti refuses VP and senior minister’s request to stop blowing up illegal foreign vessels

A popular meme of Maritime Resources and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti depicting her walking away from a foreign boat that was blown up after being caught illegally fishing in Indonesia.
A popular meme of Maritime Resources and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti depicting her walking away from a foreign boat that was blown up after being caught illegally fishing in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti is likely to win over many new fans for sticking to her principles, even if it displeases her bosses (not that she needs more fans, given that she’s already the minister with the highest approval rating in President Jokowi’s cabinet and most definitely the most beloved by the people).

Susi has endeared herself to nationalists for her ministry’s role in defending Indonesian waters by blowing up illegal foreign fishing vessels poaching in the archipelago’s aquatic territories. However, Maritime Affairs Coordinating Minister Luhut Pandjaitan on Monday said that Susi’s ship sinking policy must end, arguing that a softer measure would be better for preserving diplomatic relations between Indonesia and the vessels’ countries of origin, and that it would be better for the seized vessels to be sold to local fishermen.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla supported Luhut’s argument and urged Susi to end the policy.

“There is no blowing up ships according to the law — we can seize them, yes. But as Luhut said, don’t blow them up anymore,” Kalla said, as quoted by Tribun yesterday.

(Actually, the VP might be mistaken here as Article 69 (4) of Law no 45/2009 on Fisheries clearly states that the blowing up and sinking of foreign vessels is permissible.)

Regardless, Susi remained defiant and said that her ministry would continue to blow up illegal foreign vessels as mandated by the law and instructed by President Jokowi.

“If anyone has any problems or feels that it’s inappropriate, surely they can make a suggestion to the president to instruct his minister to change the Fisheries Law and remove the ship sinking mandate,” Susi said in a video posted on her ministry’s official Youtube account yesterday, adding that she does not personally get a kick out of blowing up ships.

“We, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, are merely the executors of court rulings requiring the vessels to be blown up and sunk.”

An article published by Gadjah Mada University in 2016 weighed the pros and cons of the illegal foreign vessels sinking policy, touching on diplomatic relations versus the need for a deterrent to the practice. However, in terms of the solution that seized vessels should be used by local fishermen, the article mentioned that a Fisheries Ministry official once revealed the existence of a mafia controlling the auction and sale of seized vessels, pocketing up to 50 percent of a vessel’s value.

Furthermore, Indonesia’s National Intelligence Agency chief last year said that there was a grand scheme by foreign cartels to oust Susi from her ministry due to her strict fishing regulations.

Luhut was forced to deny that he had ulterior motives when instructing Susi to end the ship-sinking policy.

“If it’s said that I’m protecting the mafia, it’s entirely not true. I was the first person to suggest that the (ship sinking) be carried out by Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry,” he said, as quoted by Tempo yesterday.

The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry began its, um, explosive policy under Susi in 2015, and have since sunk 380 vessels.

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