Indonesia minister says Singapore should not comment on nation's haze efforts

Indonesia's Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya (left) responded to comments made by Singapore's Minister of Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.
PHOTO: Jakarta Post, Berita Harian

Indonesia's Minister of Environment and Forestry has questioned the Singapore government's part in solving the issue of forest fires and air pollution in the region, environmental awareness website foresthints.news reported on Saturday (April 16).

The Jakarta-based organisation said in its article that Indonesia's minister Siti Nurbaya said her Singapore counterpart should refrain from commenting on Indonesia's efforts in the issue of land and forest fires.

She added that the Indonesian government had been working towards solutions based on its own decisions, and not on complaints or pressure from other countries.

"We have been consistent in sticking to our part of the bargain, especially by attempting to prevent the recurrence of land and forest fires and by consistently enforcing the law. So, my question is - what has the Singaporean government done? I feel that they should focus on their own role," the minister was quoted as saying.

Her comments were reportedly a reaction to a speech made by Singapore's Minister of Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli at the 3rd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on April 15.

According to the website, Siti Nurbaya also said: "There is really no need to comment too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing. However, with all due respect to my Singaporean counterpart, what are they doing? And where has it got them?"

She added that Indonesia's efforts had resulted in enforcement against negligent companies, including some based in Singapore.

She also said that a good government "is one which takes lots of action, not one which makes lots of comments," foresthints.news reported.

"Our president is never quick to make comments or pass judgment, but instead focuses on formulating policies aimed at protecting Indonesia's forests and peat lands. I would like to take this opportunity to say that this shows we are doing our part," she reportedly said.

While she said that Indonesia is fully aware of the actions it needs to take in the interests of its citizens, she added that the government appreciated input from Singapore's government as well.

"We really appreciate the input provided to us by our Singaporean neighbours and cherish our bilateral partnership, but I would respectfully ask them to stop making so many comments, particularly when it comes to the fires and haze-related issues. We each have our own part to play and we should focus on carrying this out. We have already formulated some major polices on our own initiative which we are busy implementing," she said.

In his speech on Friday, Mr Masagos urged regional cooperation in tackling the haze issue, and said Singapore would continue to support Indonesia’s efforts to tackle the haze.

He also urged consumers to make purchasing decisions that would help improve the agro-forestry industry, and emphasised that the Government was pursuing errant companies under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA).

On April 12, Channel NewsAsia reported that Mr Masagos said Singapore had yet to hear from Indonesia on the discussion for a Memorandum of Understanding on haze mitigation in Jambi province.

Mr Masagos reportedly responded to a question in Parliament saying: "It is indeed unfortunate that as enthusiastic as we are to help out our friends, we are not being responded to".

Last September, Ms Siti Nurbaya reportedly declined Singapore's assistance to fight the haze, telling CNN that her country was trying to handle the crisis on its own. But in October, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said that Indonesia had accepted Singapore's offer to help combat the haze after Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi indicated so during a meeting.

ljessica@sph.com.sg

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