BN, PAS seek prized catch in fishermen

BN, PAS seek prized catch in fishermen
Madam Siti Sidek says her fisherman husband makes about RM1,000 (S$400) in a good month, but there is no income during the monsoon months when he cannot go out to sea. Fishing remains one of the livelihoods where earnings have not kept up with those in other industries. In Terengganu’s Kuala Besut, many families like Madam Siti’s are poor and live in wooden stilt houses.

KUALA BESUT, Terengganu - Housewife Siti Sidek sits on a small porch outside a wooden stilt house that has been her home for 30 years.

She casts her glance towards the sea in the distance, as she waits for her fisherman husband to come home to break fast in the evening.

Subsisting on her husband's unstable and often meagre earnings has been a challenge for years now. The couple brought up their seven children, all of whom have left to work in other towns, in a house that is no bigger than a one-room HDB flat, and which has no furniture.

"In a good month, he might be able to make RM1,000 (S$400)," says the 52-year-old. "But during the monsoon months, he cannot go out to sea, so we have no income."

Madam Siti's story is typical of the life of the many fishing families in Kuala Besut. But the usually quiet seaside town has become packed with outsiders since it became the venue for Malaysia's first by-election following the May 5 General Election.

Fishermen have become a key target group for politicians in this election, as they and their families make up more than half of the voters here.

The contest was called after the local Umno assemblyman died of lung cancer last month.

Yesterday, both Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Tengku Zaihan Abdul Rahman, 37, and his opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) rival Azlan Yusof, 48, visited the Kuala Besut Fishing Complex to meet local fishermen as they unloaded their catch.

Tengku Zaihan has pledged to get the state government to upgrade the complex and provide better fishing gear for the fishermen, many of whom still live in relative poverty.

In Kampung Pachakan, near where Madam Siti lives, at least half the families still live in old stilt houses with few amenities.

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