Asean — Its been a month since Indonesia ratified the Asean agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The ratification was supposed to be a turning point in ending the annual haze problems that have caused acute health problems in Indonesia and neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.
The agreement should allow Indonesia to access Aseans pool of special funding while opening the door to other Southeast Asian nations to help prevent and put out haze-generating forest fires.
But yet again, as in previous years, we have witnessed massive forest fires resulting in thick haze in Riau and other parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Despite the frequent rhetoric from outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his ministers on fighting forest fires, there lingers a perception that the government is doing nothing. It is just a matter of time or a gust of wind before the smoke again chokes Singaporeans and Malaysians. Already, the haze is so unhealthy in Pekanbaru, Riau, that it is causing massive sickness.
Despite the Singaporean and Malaysian governments standing by, eager to help, Susilo is not making any efforts to rally the support of such neighbours. He is instead busy polishing his image, holding a democracy forum while tweeting and writing on his Facebook account about how democratic he is.
Indonesian officials, including Susilo, are mere pretenders. They always pretend to want to do something, but the truth is they have no willingness to really solve the problem. They simply make empty promises, in the hope that the issue will resolve itself. But forest fires and haze will not go away unless those responsible are punished.
In a matter of days, we will have a new president. The resolution of this issue, which Susilo neglected for a decade, must be prioritised.