GELANG PATAH – October 3, 2017: Shalan Jum’at has accomplished a feat most other fishermen in his village thought was impossible – he freed them from the clutches of unscrupulous middlemen.
Even when he was a little boy, the 30-year-old thought that his father should not be paying RM20 to buy a mere two kilogrammes of fishing nets.
What saddened him even more was that his fellow fishermen in Kampung Ladang, Tanjung Kupang, had no choice but to stomach it, so much so that many ended up owing big debts to middlemen.
In the fishing industry, middlemen are intermediaries between fishermen, wholesalers and consumers.
Some are notorious for eating into the fishermen’s income by either buying their catches for cheap or selling them equipment at a high price.
“Back then we didn’t have any choice. There were several other middlemen but all of them were just as conniving. As I grew older I decided to try and put a stop to it,” said Shalan in an interview with The Mole.
Doing so, however, has been a laborious task, as Shalan was also involved in a community empowerment programme for youths in his village through the Alami Club that he and his environmentalist-wife Dr. Serina Rahman founded.
His challenging struggle against the middlemen was also costly to the point that he, even, just two years ago thought of giving up because he almost ran out of money.
“But then a few people from Forest City came to see us and begged us to continue with what we’re doing, especially our youth upskilling and empowerment courses,” said Shalan.
Forest City is an ongoing mega township development project that is jointly developed by China’s Country Garden Group and Malaysia’s Esplanade 88 Sdn. Bhd.
It is an ambitious project involving the creation of four man-made islands in the nearby waters of the Tebrau Straits covering a total surface area of 14 square kilometres.
With the money given by Forest City, Shalan managed to set-up a centre which doubles as a fishermen’s workshop, a nature-guides’ training centre and also an open-air classroom for schoolchildren selected for English and Mandarin classes sponsored by the developer.
He also used some money to buy equipment and raw materials needed to make fish nets and other fishing wares.
Little by little, he managed to produce enough wares and nets to cater to the demands of fishermen in Tanjung Kupang.
As Shalan sells his wares at a reasonable price, it managed to break the decades of oppressive middlemen monopoly in his village.
“I sell my two kilogramme fishing nets for RM2 and I still make a profit. Can you imagine how much profit the middlemen have been making all these while?” he quipped.
However, Shalan was unsure whether he has earned the ire of the middlemen.
“So far, no one has ever tried to harm me or do anything of that sort. They can try but I’m not scared. After all I grew up in this village. I know the villagers here have my back,” said Shalan.