Indonesian minister's remarks on aid offer 'taken out of context'

 Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.
Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan. PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Comments by a senior Indonesian minister who reportedly called Singapore's offer to help fight fires in Sumatra "insulting" were taken out of context, a close aide said yesterday. "It was put out of context," said Mr Atmadji Sumarkidjo, referring to a report in Tempo magazine this week that quoted Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.

In the report, presented in a question-and-answer format, Mr Luhut commented on the challenges of putting out peatland fires during this dry season.

But in an apparent reply to a question by Tempo on why the government initially turned down Singapore's offer of assistance, Mr Luhut was quoted as saying that one of the reasons was that Singapore "offered only one aircraft. It was insulting".

The Indonesian publication could not be reached for comment, but Mr Atmadji said: "Menkopolhukam (Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs) himself is close to Singapore leaders, therefore they communicate well and he knows perfectly well that Singapore had sent over two Chinooks and a supporting Hercules (C-130) plane."

When the haze crisis peaked last month, Singapore offered an assistance package that included a C-130 military transport plane for cloud seeding, up to two C-130s to ferry a firefighting assistance team, as well as a CH-47D Chinook helicopter, which can haul a 5,000-litre water bucket for aerial firefighting.

"It was Menkopolhukam who had intensively communicated with Singapore, so they sent over their assistance," added Mr Atmadji. "We will continue to ask Singapore for assistance in the efforts to overcome the haze crisis."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2015, with the headline 'Indonesian minister's remarks on aid offer 'taken out of context''. Print Edition | Subscribe