A lot of people in Singapore and Malaysia, including politicians, are pissed at Indonesia right now. In one of the worst instances of what has become an annual event, massive forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan are currently sending massive clouds of toxic smoke into their countries that are forcing schools to shut down, flights to be canceled and dealing serious damage to people’s health (oh and btw the haze is actually killing people in Indonesia, FYI).
A lot of those angry people think Indonesia should apologize for the haze crisis. But Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla has once again said that his country has got nothing to apologize for.
“Look at how long they have enjoyed fresh air from our green environment and forests when there were no fires. Could be months. Are they grateful? But when forest fires occur, a month at the most, haze pollutes their regions. So why should there be an apology?” Kalla said as quoted by Tribunnews.
As many of you probably remember, those are essentially the same comments that Kalla made back in March of this year when he said, “For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us. They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset.”
Kalla was roundly panned for those remarks, but it looks like he didn’t listen to any of the criticism (or just doesn’t care). Perhaps he sincerely believes that other countries should be sending Indonesia thank you cards every month we don’t send toxic smoke in their direction.
But more likely it is simply Kalla’s crude and undiplomatic way of expressing his annoyance that Indonesia gets all the blame for the haze. In his mind, other countries are equally to blame, if not more so.
At the talk in New York, Kalla went on to say that one of the major causes of forest fires is foreign-owned palm oil companies (mostly Singaporean and Malaysian owned), which pay locals to clear forests by burning them down.
Corruption and inadequate enforcement of existing regulations definitely contributes to the haze crisis, and for that Indonesia should not just apologize but take much stronger measures to fix the system. But there is some truth to Kalla’s comments in that foreign parties should share part of the blame and responsibility to fix things.
For more on why that is, be sure to watch Coconuts TV’s documentary investigation, “Sumatra Burning.”