ASEAN — The formation of the Asean Environment Ministers Steering Committee has been viewed as a very positive step forward for Asean.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid said the committee would meet to discuss action plans on how to tackle the haze and build on it every subsequent meeting.
Starting November, the group will get to work. We will not wait for haze to happen. I believe Indonesia will be chairing the committee, he said in an interview at a hotel here after the Asean Sub-ministerial Meeting on trans-boundary haze pollution yesterday.
On how he felt about the meeting considering his frustration about the issue, Azmi said he had not attended this kind of forum before but felt it was where the most action had been taken on the Asean level to date.
There were no empty promises and I learnt from my Singapore counterparts that they are quite happy with what was discussed today (Saturday), he said.
Azmi said all the countries involved (Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Malaysia) were very firm in wanting to get rid of the haze.
He also felt that Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonos apology was very sincere.
On the workshop, that would be held next month and hosted by Indonesia, to pick the brains of international experts to frame a comprehensive plan to fight the haze, Azmi said it was not to be looked at from a narrow point of view.
We are experts in haze already. But there are other new things that these experts can advise us on like how to fight peat fire or how to educate those who are burning the land to do otherwise.
On whether to increase the frequency of API readings in the country, Azmi said API readings were meant to alert the public for the sake of their health.
But when you see haze, you know it’s haze, he said.
Azmi added that the Indonesian media had also been highlighting stories of Malaysian companies doing illegal logging.
They ask why Malaysians are making noise when the companies are doing the illegal logging. But our laws are so tough now that even the barter trade port in Malacca is empty, he said.
Azmi added that Indonesia was free to punish with the most severe penalty any Malaysian found guilty of crimes such as burning trees and illegal logging.
These people are considered traitors because they are hurting the people, economy, tourism and even the agricultural sector, he said.