Opinion: Malaysia should follow S'pore's attitude towards confronting haze

MALAYSIA - Malaysia should follow Singapore's no-nonsense attitude in confronting the annual haze menace, says the Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia (EPSM).

According to EPSM president Nithi Nesadurai, the response from the Singapore government was strong and swift following the choking smog that enveloped the country last month.

"We, on the other hand, seem to have a very accepting and understanding attitude, even during the years when we bore the worst of the haze," he told The Star.

Nithi said such an attitude did not give Indonesian authorities a sense of urgency to resolve the issue permanently.

"We should take a firm stand. We have a very good relationship with Indonesia, and we should use it to express our frustrations when we need to.

"It's not about saying nice things to each other all the time," said Nithi, who also called for a more proactive instead of reactive stance from ASEAN nations.

Pointing out that the intergovernmental ministerial steering committee meeting should have taken place earlier in the year instead of after another haze episode, he argued that preventive action was possible, noting the "crystal clear skies" over Malaysia when it hosted the 1998 Commonwealth Games as opposed to the horrific haze the country experienced in 1997.

"This is the time every year when they start clearing forests. But it's only when the haze appears that everyone starts running up and down," said Nithi, who also condemned those conducting local open burning, adding that they could not possibly be ignorant that such activities were illegal.