Don’t scold neighbours, fix problem instead

– Koran Tempo
The Malaysian Insider
Jun 24, 2013

It is very sad when officials have yet to really learn about how to act when facing a haze disaster like right now. The haze problem is a routine disaster, happening every year. Yet, when the dry season comes, they are still confused about how to overcome the haze.

Those of sound mind will shake their heads looking at the minimal action taken by the government. This is especially so when we see Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono getting worked up and angry with Singapore’s frustration at seeing the haze, and saying “the neighbouring country’s action is childish”.

Mr Agung’s attitude is not helpful at all, and in fact shows how rotten government policy is in dealing with the haze. The disaster this time is fairly severe.

The Standard Air Pollutants Index owned by PT Chevron in Dumai showed a reading of 400, meaning the air quality was very hazardous. In Malaysia, the pollutants index reached 383.

The result is that thousands of students in Malaysia and Singapore were sent home. Former Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong even said “the child is being suffocated”.

Mr Agung insists Jakarta has been very serious in stopping land-clearing by burning forests. As evidence, the government had issued a notice to stop this, and gazetted Law Number 18 Year 2004 on plantations, and Government Regulations Number 45 Year 2004 on forest protection.

With these, individuals or companies that burn protected forests would get 10 years’ jail and a fine ranging from 10 billion rupiah to 15 billion rupiah ($1.3 million to $2 million). Mr Agung pretended to not know that fines and regulations alone are not enough to stop the burning of the forests.

The fact is, the regulations are sluggish. The police and regional authorities, who should be ensuring that the law is being enforced, seem to have closed their eyes to the burnings. Also, not all provinces have gazetted the law against the burning of the forests. Only a few provinces, like Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and Riau, have these rules. Even then enforcement has been perfunctory. The proof of this – the practice of forest burning is being repeated every year.

Local governments are one of the weakest links in this matter. Regional autonomy places the greatest responsibility for forest burnings on local governments.

Following the rules of the game, it is only when the number of fiery hot spots generating haze has increased and disturbed neighbouring countries, as is happening now, that the central government would take over.

The burning incidents continue every year. There have never been fundamental steps to overcome the burning of the forests. Heavy penalties should have been meted out to those who burn the forests as a reminder of the horrible effects of the polluting haze. Transportation and educational activities have also been affected.

Just as important is to have a monitoring system to prevent forest fires. The Indonesian Regional Disaster Management Agencies should anticipate haze disasters. If we cannot do it ourselves, Indonesia should be able to seek help from our neighbours. Putting on airs to refuse help from Singapore and yet not take any serious action – that’s what deserves to be called a childish attitude.

* This article was published on June 22, 2013, in Koran Tempo, an Indonesian newspaper.

  1. #1 by DAP man on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 7:19 pm

    Could you ask the government why the PM or his Minister did not visit Muar or Johor when the API reached hazardous level. Didn’t they say it was an emergency??

  2. #2 by PRmaju on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 7:20 pm

    The most difficult people to deal with are bodoh sombong people like that moron Indon minister , yet, he still have the cheek to call Sporean childish when the whole of Spore and southern Msia are choking with smoke!

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 8:54 pm

    The author is right. One has duty to one’s neighbour. One can’t keep and unleash pit bulls to attack one’s neighbour; or keep toxic materials emitting poisonous gas to harm the health of the adjoining neighbour; or keep very highly combustible material that catches fire and guts the neighbours house, or allow a big tree with big roots to break their neighbour’s wall. So there is always a duty to be reasonable not to be reckless to harm one’s neighbour. That principle extends beyond individuals to a nighbour that is a country with peoples. You don’t just neglect to enforce your laws against open burning or be seen to adopt a lackadasical attitude as regards both prevention as well nipping problem at bud when the fires burn and the smoke shrouds for weeks neighbouring countries and millions of their populace whose health is endangered, and then scold that your neighbour is childish for raising hue and cry.

    • #4 by cemerlang on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 10:41 pm

      Everything boils down to greed. The greed for monetary profits that cause a big area of the land to be burned at the fastest rate. On a smaller scale, your real neighbour is burning the wild grass in the backyard. Or you happen to stay near a farm. The smoked air stays until the morning. Just when you think it is fresh air. And don’t forget the annual Chinese New Year bang. As human beings, what does it take to have a civic conscious mind ? You can bring them to the international court of crimes. But the proceedings will be tedious and expensive. It is a crime to make people sick. It is a crime to cause the economy of a country to go slow. It is a crime to stop people from working and from making money. Probably it is in their culture to do anything and everything they like and everybody else just keep quiet. Probably they are paid to just do the job and leave the rest to others. It’s not their business to know or care.

  4. #5 by tuahpekkong on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 8:55 pm

    You are jailed and fined for burning protected forests. What about forests which are approved to be planted with oil palm, would the people burning such forests face punishment? Furthermore, oil palm/rubber trees need to be re-planted after a certain period of time, can the trees which have been felled be burned? The law is not clear, the enforcement is so lax, no wonder burning continues year after year. Anyway, Koran Tempo is to be applauded for publishing such a frank article on the haze issue.

    • #6 by cemerlang on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 10:47 pm

      The law would state something like how many trees can you burn, how big an area can be burned, what is the given time for burning to be done, which authorities should be around to make sure the fire stays at one place example the fire department, what other methods can you use to clear the area beside burning, can you not just chop down the trees and use a tractor to till the land; if the buffalo can do it, the machine can do it even more effectively; if you are talking about protecting the environment, go green and all that, live a healthy lifestyle. At this rate, it is not green and it is not healthy.

  5. #7 by Jeffrey on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 9:03 pm

    To deter the Indonesian govt has to take action – but about the Malaysian & Singapore govts if it were indeed true that some of the plantation companies responsible are Malaysian & Singaporean? Are you going to take action against them for flouting environment laws of another country the consequences of which boomerang back adversely on the home countries? It was reorted that officials in Singapore are considering whether to take legal action against two Singaporean companies identified and alleged to be responsble for the open burning. Are Malaysian officials likewise inclined in looking to avenues to take action against Malaysian companies if proven implicated?

  6. #8 by Winston on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 9:08 pm



    • #9 by cemerlang on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 10:56 pm

      You see if there is illegal whaling, the Greenpeace members would sail alongside the hunting ships and even though their boats are small, yet they would try to free the whales or the endangered sea mammals or they would try to stop or block the hunting ships. To what extend is your green way of thinking or living ? Just recycling used stuff ? Using environment friendly things ?

  7. #10 by yhsiew on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 10:00 pm

    ///Since many of these Malaysian and Singaporean companies are GLCs or otherwise linked to powerful political elites back home, it can be inferred that these political elites are more motivated by material gain than protecting the interests of the society suffering from haze.

    There is little hope to address trans-boundary haze effectively unless the root cause of the system, patronage politics is conclusively addressed. – June 24, 2013./// – The Malaysian Insider

    The above confirms my speculation. PR should therefore come up with an anti-haze manifesto in GE14 and bring an end to patronage politics so as to solve the haze nuisance once and for all.

  8. #11 by tuahpekkong on Monday, 24 June 2013 - 10:11 pm

    Winston, taking too drastic actions may lead to confrontation between countries.

  9. #13 by Winston on Tuesday, 25 June 2013 - 10:51 am

    Is it really so difficult to pinpoint exactly on whose plantations the open burning, causing the haze in Indonesia, are coming from?
    With satellite surveillance and GPS, it is very easy to do so!!
    In fact, the smoke can even be seen from space stations!!!
    And the culprits just cannot hide such activities!!
    Perhaps the leaders in the opposition can liaise with the US to carry this out.
    Then take action in the UN to demand a worldwide boycott of ALL Indonesian products together with a freezing of the bank accounts of the culprits as well as the Indonesian government!
    This should galvanise them into taking immediate remedial action!!

  10. #14 by megaman on Tuesday, 25 June 2013 - 1:37 pm

    If a neighbor burns garbage in his backyard and the smoke from the fire caused problems for his neighbors, legal action can be taken. You either file a civil suit in court or at least report to police.

    Action is possible because both parties are governed by the same law and the agency responsible for enforcing the law has jurisdiction over both parties.

    The problem is that the smoke comes from a neighboring country that has a separate legal system and jurisdictions.

    So unless we are willing to sever diplomatic ties, boycott or enforce trade embargoes or worse come to worse go to war with the other country, the only measure left is to file a case with the International Court of Justice.

  11. #15 by negarawan on Tuesday, 25 June 2013 - 2:20 pm

    Malaysian UMNO government is a big joke. Sarawak has more than 200 hotspots and Taik Mahmood is not doing anything about it because it is his palm oil plantations. So why is UMNO complaining to Indon when UMNO is not doing anything about the hotspots in Sarawak because it is caused by its crony? The haze problem is going to continue even in the next ten years because of the elements of corruption in both Indon and UMNO. The best way is to stop buying and ban all palm oil related products and support alternative soy bean products which are more environmental friendly and healthier, and better managed plantations.

  12. #16 by good coolie on Wednesday, 26 June 2013 - 12:34 pm

    Don’t blame the Indonesian government. They never knew such a thing as wholesale open-burning could ever occur in their environment conscious country, and that that could affect the environment of neighbouring countries, especially the serumpun countries and the childish ones.

    Next year, Indonesia will be more responsible. Ask their leaders.

You must be logged in to post a comment.