TOURISM DRAW: Moves are afoot to promote Langkawi as a paradise for anglers
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He has been leading the fishermen of Pantai Chenang for the last seven years and seen the changes that's been made to turn the fishermen from an undisciplined lot to a community that's very aware of their responsibilities.
I met Man Commando over breakfast as we gathered to plan ways to promote tourism on the legendary island, via sports fishing. Berita Harian, through its Joran and special projects unit, has been organising fishing competitions for 15 years.
The response from anglers had been consistently strong. Now it's time to return to Langkawi, where the fishing is relatively good and the waters not as choppy as in other parts of the country.
Man Commando is a fast talker, filling whoever who wants to listen with anecdotes and background information. He rattles them off with confidence and a sense of pride.
He's a son of a fishermen, and had returned to Langkawi to bring back all the expertise and leadership he could muster to transform the fishermen.
The Langkawi fishermen are located along the beaches. A river usually provides the perfect location for a jetty for their boats to be parked and for the fish to be unloaded to buyers.
Here him say: "Saya dok berleter dengan nelayan kat sini supaya mereka jaga kebersihan dan keselamatan. Jangan biarkan jeti ni kotor dan tak terurus." ( "I've never stopped reminding the fishermen to maintain their jetty clean and make it safe. Don't let the jetty be dirty ... ever!")
Actually, this was the first thing anyone would notice about this place. There was no smell of dirty fish or rotten fish that one usually encounters at many fishermen's jetties.
The area was clean, dry and the river was not filled with plastics, cans and whatever other rubbish. No litter all over the place. Instead, there was a cafeteria serving nice breakfast, filling the area with the aroma of fresh coffee and the sound of cucur udang being prepared.
The tables are well laid out. At the opposite end of the cafeteria was the loading area, where fish and squids are unloaded to be weighed and ready for the market.
The water is drained properly into the river. The fish containers are neatly stacked and the smell is kept to the minimum. (A fish jetty is not a fish jetty if there's no smell of fish, right?)
The jetty serves 250 fishermen there, with boats numbering 165. Through years of reminders and persistent guiding, Man Commando has been able to get the fishermen to clean their boats when they return from the sea. That's why you don't get the smell of fish left on the boats after the fishermen return from their work at sea. Walk along the cement pier and it's there for everyone to see.
Seven years ago, the fishermen were hit by the earthquake in Aceh and the resulting tsunami. But they have since recovered.
Man Commando added: "Kami nak ucap terima kasih kepada Datuk Seri Najib Razak kerana bagi kami hadiah kira-kira dua tahun dulu. Dia mai sini dan bagi peruntukan untuk buat jeti baru." (We want to say thank you to Datuk Seri Najib Razak. About two years ago, the prime minister came here and announced the government will build a new jetty for us.)
Indeed, he did. When he was in Langkawi for a private vacation about two years ago, Najib visited the area and met the fishermen. This was when he made the announcement to build a new jetty costing about RM7 million which is expected to be ready next year.
Actually, people like Man Commando and the fishermen are the kind of people who appreciate the help they've been getting from the government. And the manner in which these people look after their premises is ample proof that they certainly deserve all the help.