Don't get mad, get organised

Resident Lee Ah Tee, 69, trying out the N95 mask distributed by PM Lee at the void deck, 23 June 2013.

SINGAPORE - The haze this week has dominated conversations, hogged attention and generally caused us all in Singapore much grief.

The three-hour Pollutant Standards Index has crept to historic highs, reaching 401 at one point on Friday.

We've all smarted from it and choked on it. And I'm not just talking about the smog caused by fires burning in the Riau province forests in Indonesia.

I'm talking about Singaporeans smarting from and choking on the callous indifference of Indonesian ministers and officials to Singaporeans on this issue and their shameless attempts to shift the blame.

On Monday, Forestry Ministry official Hadi Daryanto was quoted as saying that the slash-and-burn method of clearing land for cultivation was used not only by local farmers "but also employees of oil palm investors, including Singaporean and Malaysian companies".

"We hope the governments of Malaysia and Singapore will tell their investors to adopt proper measures so we can solve this problem together."

This is a valid point.

But as Singapore made clear, it can do so only if Indonesia named the companies responsible, so the government here can take action. Consumers too are up in arms: Name the companies and we know what to do, said numerous Facebook posts.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said he thought Singapore's requests for Indonesia to identify the culprits were "redundant" as "we are fully aware of the impact and consequences and the need for action".

The Indonesians have named some companies this weekend. That's welcome, even if it comes about a decade late, considering that the haze is an annual affair and enforcement action should have been taken promptly after each episode.

But still, late is better than never.

What's needed next is for green groups and consumer groups to look into the details and organise campaigns to mobilise consumers to put pressure on the commercial players to stop open-burning methods all down their supply chain.

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