Shamans sought to help make rain

Shamans sought to help make rain

18 August 2005


DUMAI (Sumatra): Kurnia Zein is at his wits’ end trying to put out the peat fires for the past three weeks. 

The Riau Forestry Protection chief’s 50 men have been on the field fighting the fire but the going is tough because the affected area is huge. 

So now Kurnia has decided to seek “divine intervention”. 

He has brought in several pawangs (shamans) to make rain. 

“So far it has not been successful but I am going to try again and again,” he said when met in Rokan Hilir. 

It has been a very dry season with months of no rain, and peat lands burn easily, smouldering for weeks and monthsunderground. 

“So please don’t think that we, in Indonesia, like the fire. We don’t,” he added. 

Kurnia has this to say to Malaysians: “None of us like disasters. What has happened is very unfortunate. 

“We hear that some Malaysians want to seek compensation from us. Why would people want to do this? It is not our intention to cause difficulty to our neighbour. 

“So let us not look for blame. Let us look for the solution to fix the problem. And Indonesia too should not be ashamed to accept help from its neighbour.” 

Malaysia has despatched firefighters and a SMART team to Sumatra to help out. 

Other than the forestry department’s 50 men, the Indonesian army and police here have deployed 450 personnel to fight the fires which has ravaged more than 97,000ha of land in Sumatra. 

TOUGH JOB: Indonesian firefighters working hard to douse the fire in Rokan Hilir, Sumatra, yesterday.
Kurnia said that in some places, his men could not even open their eyes as the smoke was too thick. 

As for the cause of the fires, Kurnia said the authorities were still trying to identify the source but it was hard because witnesses refused to come forward. 

“But we will still try to find out whether the fire was a deliberate act or sparked off naturally,” he said. 

For Kurnia, it is not logical that the big oil palm companies would set their land on fire. 

“Why should they do that? It is in their interest to protect their oil palm. 

“But we have not been able to prove either that the common folk did this. No one would admit it,” he said. 


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