INDONESIA - Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came under fresh attack on Thursday for his apology to neighbouring countries for the haze, even as he said that it was the responsible thing to do and in no way indicated weakness.
Leading the charge were trenchant critics of Dr Yudhoyono and his administration.
Former vice-president Jusuf Kalla, who is mulling over a bid for the presidency, told reporters on Thursday there was no need for the President to say sorry to Malaysia and Singapore.
"I have said before, this is a natural disaster, so there is no need to say sorry," news portal Detik.com quoted Mr Kalla as saying, after he visited detained Riau Governor Rusli Zainal at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) detention centre in Jakarta.
Mr Rusli is facing several graft charges, including over illegal logging permits in the province hit hardest by the forest fires.
"We should be working hard together. Malaysia and Singapore have to work together (with us) to overcome it," Mr Kalla added.
The Muslim-leaning newspaper Republika continued to attack the apology, saying in a front-page article that the President's attitude was a sign of weakness.
Father Benny Susetyo, secretary of the Indonesian Conference of Bishops, said the apology seemed to legitimise weakness in tackling the fires.
"Saying sorry is a sign that the government cannot handle its own problems," Republika reported him as saying on Wednesday.
The chairman of mass Muslim organisation Muhammadiyah, Dr Din Syamsuddin, said the apology was commendable, as Islam encouraged those in the wrong to do so.
But Dr Din, another regular critic of the President, said the apology should not be partial but should have been extended to all parties who were inconvenienced, such as the residents of Riau who were victims of the haze.
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