KUALA LUMPUR - Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak created a stir when he walked back to the podium after giving a speech at an event here and announced that he had forgotten to mention something "very important".
The Prime Minister had just finished his address to open the Third Meeting of the Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Chief Science Advisers and Equivalents at a hotel here when he turned back.
It turned out that the Prime Minister had a request to make to the scientists attending the meeting. He wanted to tap into their expertise for advice on the choking haze that had blanketed Malaysia for the past two months.
Saying that he had forgotten to mention something very important in his speech, Najib said: "Malaysia has been suffering from the haze problem for the past 18 years and I hope that the science advisers can also discuss this during their meeting."
"Please advise countries concerned how to cope with this and how to prevent the slash-and-burn techniques used to clear land for agriculture," he said to the applause of the audience, who realised how dear the subject was to him.
He was then earlier presented with a token of appreciation in the form of framed photographs and was about to leave the venue when he stopped, turned around and walked back to the microphone, leaving the other dignitaries on stage as well as his audience stunned.
The Prime Minister expressed his hope that the scientists could also deliberate during their meeting on how to prevent fires on peat soil, be they deliberate or due to climate change.
"I will be very interested to know your findings and look forward to your advice, which I can raise during the upcoming Apec Summit and ASEAN Summit," said Najib, referring to the two meetings which will be held next month.
He said the country also required scientific advice following floods in the east coast of peninsular Malaysia last year as well as the Sabah earthquakes which resulted in a number of fatalities.
Under Malaysia's National Science to Action initiative, Najib said, he has instructed his Science Adviser to form a task force to look into the Scientific and Technological response to large flooding events and other natural disasters.
Najib said the task force has so far identified immediate, medium and long-term measures to address flood risk reduction.
The two-day meeting which ends today is an informal gathering of scientists from 11 countries including Malaysia.
The meeting is co-chaired by the Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malaysia Prof Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid and the Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of New Zealand Sir Peter Gluckman.