​Jokowi’s Chief of Staff on the haze: Singapore should be grateful for all the oxygen Indonesia has given it before

A recent haze day in Singapore. Photo: Ilyas Sholihyn

With toxic smoke from forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan still drifting into Singapore and Malaysia, it looks like the latest haze crisis won’t be clearing up soon. In the meantime, Indonesian politicians continue to make ridiculous statements that manage to both poorly deflect blame while also angering our neighbors.

The latest comes from President Joko Widodo’s new chief of staff, Teten Masduki, who was quoted by MetroTV yesterday as saying, “I think Singapore has quite enjoyed all of the oxygen supplied to them from Indonesia, and we also know that a lof of our farming and mining exports go to Singapore, too.”

Teten’s statement echoes something Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said last Thursday in regards to whether Indonesia should apologize for the haze problem: “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?” 

Teten also said, “I think Singapore should understand our difficulties with extinguishing the fires. Since this is not a simple thing.” 

Singapore has repeatedly offered to help Indonesia fight the haze-causing forest fires. Indonesian officials have flip-flopped on the issue numerous times – they decline the offer earlier this month, saying they wanted to handle the fires on their own, but most recently VP Kalla was quoted by the Straits Times as saying: “Go ahead, we are open. Singapore can come and see for themselves if they want to help. Don’t just talk (about it).”

Honestly, if our friends at Singapore and Malaysia, who have suffered from haze far worse than anything we can even imagine in Jakarta, wanted to smack some sense into our politicians, we would understand. But again, there’s plenty of blame to go around since the haze issue is so complicated. If you’re still confused, you should watch our documentary on the haze crisis, “Sumatra Burning,” which should help clear things up.

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