— Lim Guan Eng
Malay Mail Online
October 27, 2015
OCTOBER 27 — Your Excellency Ambassador Herman Prayitno,
We are deeply concerned about the ongoing transboundary haze pollution which has adversely affected the wellbeing and livelihood of millions of people in the region, including Malaysians and Indonesians. We would like to express our deepest sympathy and solidarity with our fellow Indonesians who are suffering much more, living so much closer to the forest fires hotspots.
In Malaysia, as air quality deteriorates, schools are frequently closed and consequently half a million of students are affected. The negative impact on our economy resulting from cancelled outdoor events, falling tourists arrival and overall declining productivity — although difficult to accurately assess at the current moment — are huge and irreversible.
2. The haze is a by-product of past or still ongoing forest fire on Indonesian territories, mainly from Sumatra and Kalimantan. Apart from causing problems to Malaysians, we understand that millions of Indonesians are also suffering the hardships brought about by the health-threatening haze. While we are aware of the increasing efforts by the Indonesian government to address the forest fires and haze pollution, such as the ratification of the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Agreement by President Joko Widodo on September 16, 2014, haze pollution unfortunately remains a very serious, persistent and recurrent threat to us.
3. As the Secretary General of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) which is the second largest party in the Malaysian Parliament, we are obliged to make the following recommendations to your government to address the haze pollution and haunted our health and economy with incalculable losses:
I That Indonesian government gives serious consideration to the technical assistance and offer of Malaysian and Singaporean government to send equipment and professional firefighters to control and extinguish the forest fires in Indonesia in the spirit of ASEAN cooperation and solidarity.
II That the Indonesian government expedite the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Malaysian government on detailed cooperation mechanisms to jointly overcome the haze pollution. We were informed by the Malaysian Environment Minister, Yang Berhormat Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, through Parliament proceedings on October 21, 2015, that the signing of this MoU has been postponed twice from the original intended date in September this year. We call for the signing of MoU to be prioritised and expedited.
III Realising the fact that there are Malaysians and/or Malaysian companies involved in causing forest fires in Indonesia including at least one convicted case by the Indonesian Court, we urge the Indonesian government to communicate effectively to the Malaysian government and also to the public the detailed information of Malaysian companies accused and/or found guilty of allowing open burning on land under their control in Indonesia so that appropriate action can be taken against these companies in Malaysia.
IV We are also looking forward to greater commitments by the Indonesian government to commit to greater cooperation in solving the haze pollution at the upcoming ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Environment and the Conference of Parties (COP) on Haze Agreement schedule at the end of October 2015 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
V We also urge the Indonesian government to play a proactive key role in the soon to be established Council of Palm Oil Producer Countries (CPOPC) to ensure sustainable planting practices that will minimise the occurrence of open burning.
We wish to propose that such collaboration to battle haze pollution should be done on a year-round basis, not on an ad-hoc basis only when there is haze pollution. By monitoring and enforcing punishment round the clock the whole year round, only can hopes of checking haze pollution succeed. With that, I look forward to your timely response and positive reply. Thank you.
* Lim Guan Eng is Secretary General, Democratic Action Party, Malaysia.