Fed-up Kedah man seeks $139m from Indonesian govt

Hazy skies in Shah Alam, Selangor, yesterday. Elsewhere in Malaysia, schools in the northern states of Penang, Perlis and Perak were ordered to suspend classes today owing to the haze.
Hazy skies in Shah Alam, Selangor, yesterday. Elsewhere in Malaysia, schools in the northern states of Penang, Perlis and Perak were ordered to suspend classes today owing to the haze.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA • A Malaysian businessman fed up with the worsening air quality has made a police report and plans to seek US$100 million (S$139 million) in compensation from the Indonesian government for causing the haze blanketing many parts of the region.

Schools in the northern states of Penang, Perlis and Perak were ordered to suspend classes today by the Education Ministry.

In Kedah, schools are closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

The 52-year-old, identified as M. Gunasekaran in some media reports, said the haze had reached intolerable levels and was affecting his family.

Police confirmed that a report had been lodged on Wednesday at the Kepala Batas station in Penang, which saw the air quality turn from bad to worse this week.

HELP, NOT BLAME, INDONESIA

It is not fair for us to blame Indonesia. Instead, we have to assist them to overcome this problem, which is a transboundary problem.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AHMAD ZAHID HAMIDI , saying Malaysia will not pressure Indonesia over the worsening haze

Mr Gunasekaran, who lives in Sungai Petani, Kedah, said he was in Kepala Batas when the haze became intolerable and caused breathing difficulties for him and his family, local media reported.

He said he wants the international courts to prosecute the Indonesian government for the haze and to be paid US$100 million in compensation.

The unprecedented move came as the Air Pollutant Index hit "very unhealthy" levels in Kepala Batas and other areas yesterday.

In some places, visibility was reduced to less than 1km at noon. The worst hit was Butterworth, where visibility was only 300m.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that Malaysia will not pressure Indonesia over the worsening haze as Jakarta has shown commitment towards tackling the problem.

"It is not fair for us to blame Indonesia. Instead, we have to assist them to overcome this problem, which is a transboundary problem," Datuk Seri Zahid told reporters at the Putrajaya International Security Dialogue yesterday.

He added that he had personally given his suggestion on how to tackle the fires to Indonesian leaders.

On Monday, several MPs urged the government to adopt laws like those in Singapore, which allow legal action to be taken against companies responsible for causing the haze.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2015, with the headline 'Fed-up Kedah man seeks $139m from Indonesian govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe