Indonesia — Indonesia is not likely to ratify the ASEAN Anti-Hazeagreement soon. This, despite President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonos pledge thatit would. Before agreeing to the pact, Indonesia wants other cross-borderenvironmental issues involving Indonesias neighbors to be resolved. Theseinclude the purchase of illegally logged timber from Indonesia and illegalfishing in Indonesian waters.
On October 12th, however, the Indonesian President had called SingaporesPrime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to assure him that action would be taken. Thissurprised Indonesias parliamentary commission for the environment, becausethe commission had earlier decided to delay the ratification.
For more on this, Jack Yong spoke with Alvin Lie, a member of Commission Sevenin the Indonesian Parliament.
AL: Commission Seven which oversees the environmental issues has actuallyformally written to the government that all parties in the commission agreed topostpone the process of the ratification because of the various considerations.That letter was sent just hours before President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono madethat statement to ratify the Anti-Haze treaty.
Why do you suppose there is a conflict between what President Yudhoyono saidversus what the commission has agreed upon?
AL: I think there was a lack of communication. The commissions position hasbeen clear since a few months ago and we did not expect President Yudhoyono tomake such a statement. So it came as a surprise to us that he made thatstatement.
So is it possible at all for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to keep to hisverbal promise, given the commissions position at this moment?
AL: I think President Yudhoyonos promise was to proceed with the process butI dont think he has given any specific time limit for that. Basically, wehave no objections for the government to ratify the treaty, but there are someissues to be resolved, and these issues concern the internal Indonesiangovernment, as well as diplomatic multi-lateral issues.
Can you elaborate on some of the multi-lateral issues involved here?
AL: I feel that the Indonesian government has been weak on diplomacy, Thailand,for example; we have so many cases of illegal fishing in our waters, yet thegovernment has not been able to do anything about that. We also have strongevidence that Malaysia is the ultimate destination for illegal logging inIndonesia, yet we have no means of pressuring Malaysia to stop those activities.So we thought that while Malaysia wants us to ratify this treaty, we must do thesame, because we must get balanced benefits; not just when our neighbors arehaving problems and they press us, but when we have problems, the neighbors arenot sensitive to our needs.
But this issue of the haze affects all the ordinary citizens of all the regionalcountries. What would you have to say about the fairness of tying thesenon-environmental issues together with the Anti-Haze agreement?
AL: I acknowledge that the haze is a problem and its affecting the lives ofmillions of people. Dont forget that its not only affecting Malaysia,Singapore and parts of Thailand, but its also affecting our own people. Also,the population of Indonesians affected is much more than Singapore and Malaysiacombined. So with or without that treaty, we have the obligation to cope withthis problem, not only this year but also for the future. So unless we have acomprehensive system of tackling this problem, its meaningless for us to signand ratify the treaty. We will still not be able to fulfill our obligations andwere just going to embarrass ourselves.
But with the ratification of this treaty, I understand that neighboringcountries would step in to help solve the problem of the haze, which isultimately beneficial for Indonesia.
AL: Yes, there will be some help, but I think its very insignificant becauseunless internally, within our government itself, we have a much closercoordination, I dont think itll be enough to rely on ASEAN help.
Jakarta has already come under heavy criticism within this region. Dont youthink Indonesias relations with its neighbors and its role in ASEAN is atstake here?
AL: No, I dont think so, because firstly, the forest fires are notintentional by the government, and I believe that the central government, aswell as the local government, are already doing everything they can to tacklethe problems. We have our statistics which show that these forest fires haveincreased in terms of intensity and frequency in the lands cleared for palmplantations, and these plantations are mostly owned by Malaysian companies. Ibelieve that unless were doing this on purpose to hurt our neighbors Thisis not something that we want to happen as well.
That was Alvin Lie, Member of Commission Seven in the Indonesian Parliament the commission dealing with environmental matters.