Saturday, June 29, 2013


By Mansor Puteh

Indonesia knows it can do whatever it likes to Malaysia and also Singapore. Because they know Malaysians and Singaporeans do not behave like them – or some of them, who are mostly the Indonesians who are confused, thinking that so few Indonesians can make a difference.

Especially with the Indonesian leaders not wanting or able to do anything to do.

No wonder they had done a lot to create unnecessary discord between Indonesia and its immediate neighbors, which fortunately did not escalate simply because there are no similar fringe groups of people in the two countries who could do exactly what the Indonesians are capable of doing – including carrying their own human waste or feaces to the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta.

This act can only be done by those Indonesians.

So when the haze problem rose from Sumatera, Malaysians and Singaporeans did not go up in arms against the Indonesians. They remained cool.

Yet, Singapore’s alarm which was founded, was met with unusually undiplomatic response from Indonesia’s Agong Laksono who said Singapore was ‘crying like a baby!’

Maybe a rebuke for Agong came when Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono apologized to Malaysia and Singapore for the haze problem.

So far a few Indonesians have been detained over the problem for causing fire in the plantations in Sumatera, which are known to be the main causes for the haze that had enveloped much of the two countries.

Indonesia is not considered to be suffering from the haze problem as it was their own making; so they must enjoy whatever inconveniences that they experience.

It is also quite laughable when Indonesia is said to have spent a lot of money to put down the fires, yet, they did not think it would be wiser for them to stop the problem at its roots, before it became a fire, an act which should not cost too much to achieve.

A simple legislation could do the trick, so all Indonesians know how to better behave themselves with their plantations and other trees that they want to get rid of.

The question which many people in Malaysia especially want to ponder is: What if the situation is reversed? What if Malaysia and Singapore are the countries that are providing or creating haze over much of Indonesia especially Jakarta?

Surely, there will be some Indonesians who will gather outside of the embassies of Malaysia and Singapore to protest against the haze.

And if the ministers of the two countries were to say that the Indonesians were ‘crying like a baby’ and citing how the open and slash burning was created by nature, what would the Indonesians say to this too?

Indonesia is a vast country. Sumatera is very much under-developed, so there are many plantations.

Some of them are owned by Malaysian and Indonesian companies. But it would seem incomprehensible for them to allow their plantations to burn and slash trees that they had cut down, or to burn sugarcane trees in order to process the sugar in them.

The slash and open burning in Sumatera, must only be done by small plantation owners and also by people who have small tracts of land that they cultivate; it can never be done by the major corporations.

Indonesians have generally been coy to such problems. Even if the whole of Jakarta and Jawa are affected by the haze as it was in 2005, they will still not bother to try and solve the problems.

Those who were responsible for the problem in 2005 are still probably the persons who are creating the haze.

Unfortunately, the worst hit areas are Singapore, followed by Johor, where the Polutant Safety Index has gone up beyond the 300 level.

And the situation will become much worse, the more the Indonesians believe that it was an act of nature, that they could not control.

In fact, it was also the ‘act of nature’ that the Indonesians are also not able to control the outflow of Indonesians to the Tanah Melayu Peninsular who used rickety boats to cross the Straits of Melaka, to live and work in Malaysia, albeit illegally.

And when the Indonesians are arrested and detained, the Indonesian officials at their embassies hardly take notice of it.

They are only alarmed when an Indonesian maid was charged and found guilty of physical abuse of children.

They are not alarmed by the major issues.

They know if they put a stop to the illegal outflow of Indonesians to Malaysia, they can get a stiff reaction from them.

In fact, they might even think it is good for some Indonesians to leave the country to work in Malaysia as Indonesia does not have the job opportunities for them that Malaysia has.

‘Crying like a baby’ seems to be such an appropriate comment given the severity of the problem which Malaysia and Singapore have to face, for which they do not know when it will end.

Business is severely affected, and Malaysia and Singapore have the right to pursue the matter in the International Court of Justice or ICJ on this, as it relates to cross-border criminal activities, which unfortunately can be solved once and for all, if Indonesia had taken stiff measures to ensure that the plantation owners in Sumatera and other individuals abide by their own environmental laws.

So, can’t Malaysians and Singaporeans charge the Indonesian minister, Agung for ‘behaving like a child’ in this case?

It is also pathetic how the Indonesians have not bothered to respond to the offer of assistance from Malaysia and Singapore, like they know how to solve the problems themselves.

Indonesia can never be able to solve such problems, even with satellites coming into the picture and those who are responsible for the haze problem be clearly identified.

I escaped the haze problem in Sumatera. I was in the area in the south of the island early June. The plantations were still clear of any burning then, and I never could guess that they are not so now.

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