Indonesia criticised for not doing enough


INDONESIA was hit by criticism yesterday for its handling of the haze situation, with a senior Malaysian opposition politician demanding that Jakarta bear responsibility for the disaster.

The blast from Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Kit Siang came as Malaysia’s leading English-language daily, the New Straits Times, noted in an editorial that concerted regional action “has not done much to put out the fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan”.

Mr Lim said in a statement that “it was most regrettable that the Indonesia government has been allowed to get off so lightly for the haze problem it had caused to neighbouring Asian countries”.

“Malaysia should demand that the Indonesian government bear responsibility for the national haze disaster as Indonesia cannot disclaim responsibility for the pollution and the hardships it has caused Malaysians as a result of the worst haze in the country,” he added.

The New Straits Times, like Mr Lim, also took aim at the Malaysian government, questioning the efficiency with which it has tackled the worsening problem at home. It noted:

“Even before the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry decided to make its own rain, however, it spoke of making a bigger effort region-wide to get to the bottom of the problem.”

“Such an effort had never been made before since the major causes of the haze – forest fires outside the country – were considered to be somebody else’s business, not ours.”

The criticism has come despite pledges by the Indonesian government to strike hard against those responsible for causing the haze problem.

But criticism has also come from within.

Here in the Indonesian capital, legislator Imam Churmen of the Muslim-oriented United Development Party said the continuing haze and the forest fires which caused it could tarnish Indonesia’s image abroad if not tackled.

He called on the authorities to step up measures against those who continued to violate a ban on the slash-and-burn method of clearing land, forest and plantation areas.

His concern about the image of Indonesia which has been emerging from out of the current haze situation came against the backdrop of moves by thousands of Indonesian Muslims in central Kalimantan to pray for rain.

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