Malaysian ministers voice concern over haze: Vivian

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (at right) calling on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at Parliament House yesterday. Dr Balakrishnan is in Malaysia for two days from yesterday on an introductory visit as Foreign Minister.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (at right) calling on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at Parliament House yesterday. Dr Balakrishnan is in Malaysia for two days from yesterday on an introductory visit as Foreign Minister.PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday that the Malaysian Cabinet ministers he met yesterday all voiced their concern over the haze.

Dr Balakrishnan, who is in Malaysia for two days from yesterday on an introductory visit as Foreign Minister, said the Malaysian leaders agreed that the choking smoke caused by Indonesian forest fires is "terrible and unacceptable" this year.

The haze has caused Malaysian schools to be closed four times this year, affecting millions of schoolchildren, while dozens of flights had to be diverted or delayed.

"To keep going on or even worsen is not something we should countenance," he told the Singapore media after a two-hour meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Anifah Aman.

Dr Balakrishnan said that while the decades-old haze problem shows no sign of abating, unlike in the recent past, there has been an international response to jointly address the issue, such as Indone-sia's acceptance of Singaporean and Malaysian assets in firefighting efforts.

"We worked with Indonesia in our own small way. Nonetheless, it represents collaboration," he said.

He praised Kuala Lumpur for its able chairmanship of Asean and pledged Singapore's commitment to work closely with Malaysia for a successful Asean Summit next month in KL.

He earlier called on Prime Minister Najib Razak and five other Malaysian ministers, in meetings that he said confirmed his view that, "I can't think of a time when it (bilateral ties) has ever been better".

Dr Balakrishnan met Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai where both the high-speed rail (HSR) link to KL and the Rail Transit System to Johor were discussed.

Dr Balakrishnan welcomed the progress on the HSR and said the $15 billion project should be executed deliberately and carefully.

The HSR will travel the 340km distance between the Singapore and Kuala Lumpur terminals in 90 minutes.

The minister on his Facebook page yesterday said he had a "busy day" in KL, including catching up "with my Malaysian friends whom I have known for over 10 years".

He wrote: "The close people-to- people links that our two countries share reflect the depth of our bilateral friendship. We should cherish these ties."

Dr Balakrishnan will today call on Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who was appointed three months ago.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'Malaysian ministers voice concern over haze: Vivian'. Print Edition | Subscribe