Singapore and Indonesia haze row deepens

Haze on Orchard Road, Singapore, in September 2015. Source: Wikimedia

 

Indonesia has dismissed Singaporean allegations that the tiny republic did not receive an official complaint over plans to prosecute Indonesian firms for suspected involvement in the 2015 forest fires.

“The Indonesian ambassador has conveyed [a complaint] to the Singaporean environment minister,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said.

Last Wednesday, Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) obtained a court warrant against the manager of an Indonesian firm with alleged links to the calamitous forest fires on Sumatra and Borneo which left much of Asean choking last year. He failed to attend his hearing in Singapore.

Indonesia said it sent an official protest through its embassy in Singapore.

But a Singapore Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson denied receiving any protest. “Mr Arrmanatha’s remarks are puzzling. He reportedly said that the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore had ‘strongly protested’ against the NEA’s actions. We have, however, not yet received any representation from the Indonesian Embassy.”

Singapore passed the Trans-boundary Haze Pollution Act in 2014 to take action on foreign polluters.

Jakarta also says it will halt cooperation with Singapore on environment, forestry and haze-related issues.

The Indonesian environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya said the archipelago would undertake a unilateral review of several deals with Singapore on collaboration over the smog issue.

All bilateral collaboration on forest fires had been put on hold as Singapore tightened legal proceedings against the Indonesian firms.

Singapore blames at least six businesses for large-scale slash and burn clearance for palm-oil plantations.

“We are only going to inform Singapore at a later stage of the existing bilateral collaborations that are to be terminated as well as those planned collaborations which will not go ahead,” Indonesian minister Nurbaya was quoted saying by foresthints.news.

Singapore said in March it suffered losses of about S$700 million (US$512 million) last year.

“We cannot have just one approach to address the problem. One of these approaches that we’re trying to commit is the bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and Singapore,” the city-state’s Environment Minister Masagos Zulkifli said.

Jakarta hit back that Singapore should focus on its own role in addressing the issue.

“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,” Nurbaya retorted.