Muslim leader wants Malaysian firefighters to go home


The leader of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation has hit out at Kuala Lumpur’s criticism of the efforts here to fight forest fires and urged the government to ask Malaysian firefighters to go home as Indonesia had sufficient manpower.

Mr Abdurrahman Wahid, chairman of the 34-million-strong Nadhlatul Ulama, said that Indonesia should instead draw on its military and American and Australian expertise to overcome the environmental catastrophe.

“While the Malaysians give us assistance, they are saying unkind things about us,” he was quoted as saying by Indonesia’s leading daily, Kompas. “We should just thank Malaysia for helping us and let them know it is enough.”

A team of 1,200 Malaysian firefighters arrived in Indonesia last month to help put out fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Meanwhile, in KUALA LUMPUR, the Malaysian Cabinet yesterday decided that the 1,200 firefighters in Kalimantan and Sumatra would be replaced in stages by 1,000 men on standby here.

It was felt that it would be fairer to rotate the men and lessen their exposure to smoke and risk, Housing and Local Government Minister Ting Chew Peh said.

He added that the number of Malaysian firefighters in Kalimantan would be raised to 500 from 200, while the number in Sumatra would be cut to fewer than 800 from 1,000 when the next batch of firefighters leaves for Indonesia.

Dr Ting was speaking to reporters after accepting cheques totalling M$300,000 (S$143,000) from seven companies to help the families of the firefighters sent to Indonesia.

Most of the 1,200 were given 24 hours’ notice of their assignment and did not have time to make adequate financial arrangements for their families, he said.

Posted in Indonesia