Indonesian minister rebuts Singapore over comments on haze

Indonesian minister rebuts Singapore over comments on haze

17 April 2016

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Indonesia–Indonesia’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya has issued a rebuttal over comments made by her Singapore counterpart about forest fires in Indonesia, saying Singapore should focus on its own role in combating transboundary haze, instead of “making so many comments”.

In an interview with local environmental news website on Saturday (Apr 16), Dr Nurbaya said the Indonesian government has taken substantial steps to prevent land and forest fires, and the ensuing haze that envelops the region every year.

These steps are based on decisions made by the Indonesian government, and not because of pressure from other countries, including Singapore, she said.

“We have been consistent in sticking to our part of the bargain, especially by attempting to prevent the recurrence of land and forest fires and by consistently enforcing the law. So, my question is – what has the Singaporean government done? I feel that they should focus on their own role,” Dr Nurbaya was quoted as saying.

On Friday, Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli spoke at the third Sustainable World Resources dialogue in the city-state.

“Agro-forestry companies should take full responsibility for fire prevention and mitigation in their concessions. There must not be a repeat of last year’s fires, because the prolonged season of dryness allowed fires to burn uncontrollably and in a very widespread way,” Mr Masagos had said.

“Companies practising unsustainable production that affect us with haze must know that their actions will not lead to profitability and that they will have to face the consequences sooner or later,” he said.

Dr Nurbaya told that Singapore needs to do its own part in combating the haze.

“There is really no need to comment too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing. However, with all due respect to my Singaporean counterpart, what are they doing? And where has it got them?” she was quoted as saying.

She said the Indonesian government has taken action against companies – especially those headquartered in Singapore – found to be negligent in handling land and forest fires that occur on their concessions.

“This is just one example of how we are not shirking our responsibilities and are doing what is expected of us,” she said.

“We really appreciate the input provided to us by our Singaporean neighbours and cherish our bilateral partnership, but I would respectfully ask them to stop making so many comments, particularly when it comes to the fires and haze-related issues. We each have our own part to play and we should focus on carrying this out.”

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