Fisherman Zakaria Abdul, 52, was moved to tears as he surveyed the 19-ft fibreglass boat he had received from the Malaysian federal government.

“I am shedding tears of joy. Even a friend who does not support this government has received a similar gift. It would be foolish of us not to appreciate this aid,” he told Bernama in Kuantan, Pahang, recently.

A boat of that size will easily cost RM3,600, and bachelor Zakaria does not have savings to buy such a boat himself. His meagre income is just enough to meet his daily needs.

“I will not forget this help from the government. Then there is the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M). In the 2012 Budget, there is a special fund for repair of fishermen’s houses which we can apply for,” he said.

Up to now, Zakaria has been living from hand to mouth, earning a small income by using a dilapidated boat of 30 years to fish along the coast and staying home whenever the vessel springs a leak.

The fisherman of Kampung Sri Cempaka, Pantai Sepat, said his income ranges from RM40 to RM100 a day depending on the condition of the boat and the weather.

Zakaria was one of an estimated 3,000 fishermen in the country who each received a 19-ft fibreglass boat, a 30hp outboard engine, a GPS gadget, a safety jacket, a net and a trap.

The aid was handed over by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at a national-level event in Tanjung Lumpur, Kuantan, recently.

Equally joyful is fisherman Jasmi Omar, 49, of Cherating, Pahang, who said the aid will drive him to strive harder to earn a bigger income.

“I only came to know two days earlier that I am eligible for the aid. I do not know what to say. I am so happy,” said the father of four.

Mohd Saifuddin Abdullah, 31, of Kampung Tanjung Lumpur, was the recipient of a 30hp outboard motor.

“I have not gone out to sea in my own boat for more than two months now. The engine is faulty. I have been helping my fisherman friends with their catch to earn some money,” he said.

Zaidi Abidin, 37, and his wife, Zaiton Zahari, 33, received a fishing net as aid.

Pahang Fishermen’s Association chairman Zulkiflee Md Yusof is happy for the fishermen, saying it would help enhance their quality of life.

2011 The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad