SINGAPORE - Instead of countering scathing remarks made by a senior Indonesian minister, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday that he preferred to focus on solving the haze problem and reassuring Singaporeans they will be fine.
Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Agung Laksono, who is coordinating his country's relief and response efforts, had hit out at Singapore earlier at a press conference in Jakarta, saying: "Singapore shouldn't be like children, in such a tizzy."
PM Lee said it would not be "fruitful" for him to respond, and refused to be drawn into what he called "megaphone diplomacy".
"What we need to do is to solve the problem and also reassure our people that they will be okay and taken care of, and that everything which can be done is being done," he said.
"And I think we should work towards solving the problem rather than exchanging harsh words."
Mr Agung earlier told reporters that Singapore said nothing when there was fresh air, but complained about the occasional haze.
He also rebutted criticisms that Indonesia had yet to ratify an Asean pact on transboundary haze pollution. "Singapore is like that. The border issue hasn't been settled, neither has extradition, corruption."
Asked about offers of assistance from Singapore, he said: "If it is just half a million (dollars), better we use our own budget."
His remarks quickly drew a flurry of angry responses on The Straits Times' Facebook page.
"We are not children, we are just taking precaution as it (the haze) is hazardous to our lives," said reader Mildred Lee.