Indonesia investigating eight firms

JAKARTA - Indonesia is investigating eight firms for causing fires that led to the haze, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said at a meeting here with his Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan.

He did not name the firms, but Indonesian officials working with non-governmental groups separately identified 17 pulp and paper and 15 palm oil companies on whose land fires had been burning over the past nine days.

The majority of the hot spots in Riau province is inside concessions affiliated to Royal Golden Eagle, of which April Group - with an office in Singapore - is part, and Sinar Mas Forestry, which supplies to Asia Pulp and Paper, presidential delivery unit chief Kuntoro Mangkusubroto told a briefing on Friday. April Group said on Friday that the firm and its third-party suppliers practise a strict "no-burn" policy.

There are also fires on the land of firms affiliated with Malaysia's Sime Darby and Singapore-listed Wilmar and First Resources.

"The information on concession licences was gathered from publicly available sources and confirmed against satellite images of hot spots," said Mr Samadhi Nirarta, the presidential unit's deputy on moratorium monitoring.

Dr Balakrishnan, who travelled to Jakarta on Friday as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's special envoy, welcomed his counterpart's update on enforcement.

"We have got to join the dots and get that trail of accountability back to the companies and the stakeholders who are responsible for this disaster," he told Singapore media. "If we don't do that, there will not be sufficient deterrent on the ground."

On Thursday, PM Lee said his Government will act against Singapore companies found responsible for the fires.

On Friday, Dr Balakrishnan met Professor Balthasar to deliver Mr Lee's letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono conveying his grave concern at the impact the haze was having, and urging Indonesia to take timely and concrete action to solve the problem.

Mr Lee also offered Singapore's help to put out the fires, including an aircraft for cloud seeding and satellite pictures and hot-spot coordinates to identify the culprits behind them.