Edhy Prabowo, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries: “I want to fight for the fate of the fishermen so that they can smile”

(photo: IO/Yoga Agusta)

IO, Jakarta – Edhy Prabowo has been appointed Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries in the Indonesia Maju cabinet (Indonesia Onward). Seven days after this inauguration, Independent Observer talked to him in his office on the sixteenth floor of the Mina Bahari 4 building on Jalan Medan Merdeka Timur, Central Jakarta. That morning, Edhy, as he likes to be called, dressed neatly wearing a long-sleeved white shirt, long black pants and black shoes. A ministry pin was also fastened on his left breast.

When congratulated on his inauguration, he humbly expressed appreciation. “Don’t congratulate (me) yet, this is a responsibility, congratulate (me) later when there has been success,” he said smiling. “Because this is a big job, an honour for me, making it so I must work hard,” continued the Gerindra Party Deputy Chairman in Finance and National Development.

Edhy said he had never thought he would become a Minister. “I never dreamed of becoming a Minister,” he said. Born December 24, 1972 in Muara Enim, South Sumatra, Edhy once dreamed of becoming a soldier. Unfortunately, he only lasted two years in the military academy in Magelang, Central Java. Edhy was expelled after being penalized by his unit. However, because he isn’t someone who easy gives up and has a fighting spirit, after exiting the military academy, he decided to move to Jakarta. In the megapolitan city he met Prabowo Subianto. “Alhamdullilah, I met Mr. Prabowo. He gave (me) a chance to get back up. It was then I started to realize there was another chance for me to make my parents proud,” he explained.

Edhy was sponsored by Prabowo to reenter the educational world and was asked to learn silat (martial arts) every weekend in Batujajar, Bandung. As time went by, Edhy slowly became Prabowo’s right-hand man. He accompanied the three-star general during his exodus to  Germany and Jordan. At the time, Prabowo was in the middle of starting a business there. “I have been following him for 26 years; now I am a Minister. Certainly, this is all because of Mr. Prabowo’s guidance. Then I was trusted by Mr. Jokowi, also other political figures such as Ibu Mega, Mr. Surya Paloh, and chairmen from other parties believed I was good enough to be promoted. So, this is all because of Mr. Prabowo, then the President entrusted me with this responsibility,” he explained.

Edhy admitted that the task was entrusted to him by President Joko Widodo. There are two things the President’s instructed him to do: amend communications with the fishing community and build and boost the fishing and aquaculture industry. “This is the main task that has to be done,” he said.

Currently, there are 2.7 million fishermen in Indonesia; counting their families, there are more or less 7 million people whose livelihood depends on the sea. “That isn’t even aquaculture fishermen, coastal communities, also those on outer islands; all waiting for a strike from me. They hope for progress in this sector,” he said.

The appointment of Edhy as the number one person in the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries was applauded by many as he is believed to be qualified and bring new hope. However, Edhy doesn’t want to get big-headed hearing the praise. “I also hear that but the issue of being qualified, I really must prove myself. Thank you for the positive assessment but I think what’s most important is the implementation of that ability to the factual improvement of the fishermen’s future,” he explained.

Managing the Ministry won’t be done using complicated physics formulas but rather with understanding, listening, and accepting input from fishermen as their needs are simple. They only need to be given a chance, ease of licensing for their boats to fish at sea, then when going out to sea they need fuel, ingredients for food when at sea, after they finish their catch, they can sell their fish at a fair price. “If something happens to their family, there is a way out. They have money to put their kids in school, if their kids get sick, they have money to go to the hospital, and if they want to go on vacation, they have a little money to bring their family travelling,” he explained.

For Edhy, as a public servant, service must be mainly aimed at the public. As a result, we have to see what fishermen and stakeholders in the industry want. “I talked with the Minister of Transportation about the one-stop service; he agreed. We agreed to simplify the regulations but not release our control. When this is done, our fishermen will smile. If (the regulations) can be simplified, why must we make them complicated? After all, they are our people who work for the nation. We are the nation’s officers, so we must make it easier. Productivity happens not because of employees but because of business actors,” he said.

Edhy’s wish to fight for the future of fishermen so they may smile is not only empty rhetoric so the public will like him. He means what he says, as can be seen by his many efforts. “I am sure we can (improve the future of fishermen) because regardless of anything there are still many who complain about permits, fishing equipment type, boat sizes, ease in doing business, especially as we are facing sea challenges where Indonesia is the second-largest supplier of trash in the world, this is even before talking about reclamation, and our coastlines which are already affected by abrasion,” he said. “I believe not much time is needed to do that,” he continued.

“I talked with the Minister of Transportation about the one-stop service; he agreed. We agreed to simplify the reg­ulations but not release our control. When this is done, our fishermen will smile. If (the regulations) can be sim­plified, why must we make them complicated? After all, they are our people who work for the nation. We are the nation’s officers, so we must make it easier. Produc­tivity happens not because of employees but because of business actors.” He said.

With the efforts of the Ministry, Edhy is certain that the fisherman can become prosperous. Various forms of support are being given to fishermen, one of which is the Public Service Agency (Badan Layanan Umum – “BLU”) which has funds of IDR 1.3 trillion. These funds can be lent at an interest rate of 3%. “They say if one permit is already easy, us (fishermen) can smile, especially if all the problems are solved. This is a challenge for me, to make it happen,” he said optimistically.

Related to the sinking of boats, Edhy says it will still be done. However, he doesn’t want the sinkings to be just about the spectacle. “I want real sinkings. These sinkings we must do when they break (the laws) in our waters. When they threaten our sovereignty, we must dare to fight back,” he said. “Relating to the fishing equipment which is still being debated, I want the direction to be towards looking for a solution. I accept all input; this is part of our job. Wherever and whenever, we must communicate,” he continued.

Another thing on Edhy’s radar is fish processing. According to him, Indonesia has many fish processing units which are not inferior to those owned by other countries such as China, South Korea, or Vietnam. Other than that, he says, Indonesia’s technology is also no less advanced than others. The same can be said about Indonesia’s human resources. “I am certain, the technology we need isn’t extraordinarily advanced technology and what our people we need aren’t extraordinary funds as the potential is already in Indonesia. What’s left is how we secure this potential to become something more that is beneficial to everyone,” he said.

As Minister, Edhy wants to make a breakthrough in progressing the fishermen, one way being by teaching fishermen to operate boats, use fishing equipment, and process fish. Then to teach them how to take on loans from the bank and be responsible for those loans. “What’s important is there must not be fishermen children who cannot read, cannot go to school, that is our main job and the president’s instruction to improve our human resources,” he said.

Finishing his conversation with Independent Observer, Edhy said he hoped the mandate given by the President could be proven through hard work for the interests of the people, nation and state. (Des & Dan)