Indonesian minister says Singapore “behaving like a small child” over haze

Senior Indonesian minister Agung Laksono
Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Agung Laksono has slammed Singapore's reaction to the worst haze pollution in Singapore history. credit: Tempo

A senior Indonesian minister has hit out at Singapore on the haze, saying: “Singapore shouldn’t be like children, in such a tizzy.”

Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono, who is coordinating his country’s relief and response efforts, told a press conference on Thursday: “Indonesian citizens also need to be looked after, there are hundreds.”

“It’s not what Indonesians want, it’s nature,” he added.

Earlier, he told reporters that Singapore said nothing when there was fresh air, but complained about the occasional haze.

Mr Agung also rebutted criticisms that Indonesia had yet to ratify an Asean agreement on transboundary haze pollution.

“Singapore is like that. The border issue hasn’t been settled, neither has extradition, corruption.”

Asked about offers of assistance, he said: “If it’s just half a million (dollars), better we use our own budget.”

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Agung led a meeting with Indonesia’s foreign, forestry and environment ministers for an update on the haze, which has blanketed many parts of Riau province.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency CEO Andrew Tan is also in Jakarta for a meeting with Indonesian officials on Thursday.

Mr Agung said cloud seeding to induce rain would be carried out as soon as feasible. The salt is ready, the planes are in place, but there must be clouds, he added.

“The burning is not always above ground,” he said. “Much of it is below the surface.”

Some 850ha of land has been ablaze in recent days, and officials have put out fires in some 650ha, he added.

The government was also investigating which companies are responsible, he added.

“If there are, some are owned by Indonesians, Malaysians, Singaporeans,” he said. “We will take action if they are found responsible. But there must be a process.”

On Wednesday, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa noted that Indonesia had yet to ratify an Asean agreement on combating transboundary haze, but said in reality, “we have been in full compliance with what is required and expected.”

“Let’s focus on putting the fires out, and ensuring those responsible are held accountable,” he added.

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