MFA seeks answers from Jakarta to conflicting views on whether Singapore firms caused haze

MFA seeks answers from Jakarta to conflicting views on whether Singapore firms caused haze

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) yesterday conveyed a diplomatic note to Indonesia's ambassador here on the haze issue, raising questions and concerns about the alleged involvement of Singapore-linked companies in the Sumatra fires.

Here is the press release from MFA:

Permanent Secretary (Foreign Affairs) Mr Chee Wee Kiong met with H.E. Andri Hadi, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Singapore this afternoon. Mr Chee called for the meeting to convey a diplomatic note:

(i) seeking clarification on statements by Indonesian Ministers and officials on the issue of Singapore-linked companies said to be involved in illegal land clearing practices in Indonesia; and

(ii) asking Indonesia to assist by handing over relevant evidence.

Mr Chee noted that there had been contradictory statements made by Indonesian Ministers and officials on whether Singapore-linked companies were engaged in illegal land clearing practices.

The Head of the Presidential Working Unit for Development Supervision and Control H.E. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto reportedly said that many hotspots were located on land owned by two companies with offices in Singapore, namely, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL).

However, Indonesia's Minister of Forestry H.E. Zulkifli Hasan was reported as saying that there was no strong evidence against these companies.

H.E. Kuntoro's media remarks also contradicted comments by Indonesia's Minister of Environment H.E. Balthasar Kambuaya to Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Mr Vivian Balakrishnan during their meeting on 21 June 2013 when Minister Kambuaya told Minister Balakrishnan that no Singapore companies were involved in illegal land clearing practices.

Mr Chee requested that the Government of Indonesia clarify these contradictory statements regarding the Singapore-linked companies that are supposedly engaged in illegal land clearing practices.

He also requested the Government of Indonesia to share evidence relating to any involvement by Singapore companies in such activities.

If there was credible evidence that Singapore-owned companies or companies operating in Singapore were involved, the Government of Singapore intended to take further steps against these errant companies.

At the same time, Mr Chee reiterated that the primary responsibility for legal and enforcement actions against these companies was with Indonesia, where these companies were allegedly conducting such illegal activities.

Mr Chee reiterated that it was important to focus on dealing with the smoke haze. Engaging in megaphone diplomacy was neither helpful nor constructive.

In this regard, Mr Chee described as unhelpful comments made by Indonesia's Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources H.E. Jero Wacik who said that Singapore was not a good neighbour, and that Singapore had benefitted from gas supply and tourist arrivals from Indonesia.

H.E. Andri Hadi said he would convey Mr Chee's points to the Government of Indonesia. He added that it was important for both sides to keep the lines of communication open, and that dialogue and cooperation was the way forward.

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