Offer to help Indonesia fight haze 'still stands'

Students in Indonesia's Jambi province were released from school earlier because of the worsening haze yesterday. Indonesia has struggled to put out illegal forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan that have blanketed many parts of the country, Singapo
Students in Indonesia's Jambi province were released from school earlier because of the worsening haze yesterday. Indonesia has struggled to put out illegal forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan that have blanketed many parts of the country, Singapore and Malaysia in thick smoke.PHOTO: REUTERS

Singapore's offer to help Indonesia resolve the haze crisis still stands and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will also consider enhancing its assistance package if more aid is needed, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.

"If they need more help... the SAF is always open to consider more help," said Dr Ng, who was speaking to The Straits Times a day after high-level talks in Jakarta. He said he made the offer again during his talks with Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Panjaitan and Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu on Monday.

"And both Pak Ryamizard and Pak Luhut thanked me for this offer and they understood that the offer is still open," he added.

Indonesia has struggled to put out illegal forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan that have blanketed many parts of the country, Singapore and Malaysia in thick smoke.

Singapore extended a helping hand to Indonesia earlier this month, but its help was thrice rejected publicly by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, who said her country had the resources to deal with the crisis.

The Singapore offer, however, has elicited mixed responses from Indonesian leaders. Lawmaker Ahmadi Noor Supit told the government not to reject offers of aid to put out the fires. "We should not be averse to it, we should not act as though we can cope alone, especially in terms of funding and equipment," he added.

Mr Ahmadi's comments come on the back of remarks by Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, who said on Sunday: "Singapore can come and see for themselves if they want to help. Don't just talk."

Dr Ng said yesterday that while Singapore's offer remains, it was up to Indonesia "to activate our help".

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also said he was "more than willing" to help Indonesia deal with the fires alongside Singapore.

Meanwhile, the haze continues to wreak havoc in the region. Acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman yesterday extended the state of emergency in his province after it was covered by haze that reduced visibility to about 100m.

Hazy conditions in Singapore took a turn for the worse yesterday, with air quality reaching very unhealthy levels. The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) entered the very unhealthy band of 142-203 at 4am. As of 3pm, the 24-hour PSI was between 172 and 210. The three-hour PSI, which is not tied to a health advisory, stood at 246.

SEE TOP OF THE NEWS

Singapore 'respects Indonesia's sovereignty'

7 Indonesian govt determined to resolve crisis: Eng Hen

Jakarta to take 40 haze fire cases to court: Police chief

Parents hope haze won't affect start of PSLE tomorrow

Singapore-Batam ferry services stopped for 3 hours due to haze

No respite from bad air despite downpour

FORUM

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Offer to help Indonesia fight haze 'still stands''. Print Edition | Subscribe