Indonesia's VP Kalla invites Singapore to aid in haze combating efforts: Report

JAKARTA - Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has invited Singapore to aid in the efforts to combat the haze in Sumatra and Kalimantan, according to a report by an Indonesian news agency.

"Singapore is ready to help. So I think, please do, because Singapore also knows that a natural disaster can happen anywhere," Mr Kalla was quoted as saying by Indonesia's Liputan6 news outlet on Tuesday (Sep 15).

"Singapore please come and tackle the haze because the effect is also felt by Singapore. We, not to mention Singapore, dislike (the haze). Everyone dislikes it and we have put in extra effort to tackle the fires," Mr Kalla added.

His comments followed Singapore's offer of help to fight the forest fires in Indonesia last week, which Jakarta later declined, saying the country has the resources to handle haze-inducing blazes.

Mr Kalla on Tuesday also stressed that firm action would be taken against those involved in land and forest fires, adding that sanctions would be meted out accordingly.

The Indonesian armed forces this week deployed an additional 1,600 military personnel to Riau and South Sumatra province to fight the fires, after initially sending 1,000 soldiers to Sumatra last week. The deployments came after the Indonesian authorities declared a state of emergency in Sumatra's hard-hit Riau province on Monday.

Indonesian police on Wednesday nabbed seven corporate executives in connection with illegal forest fires across Sumatra and Kalimantan, part of a wide-ranging effort by the government to arrest the haze crisis.

Mr Kalla has previously criticised Indonesia's neighbours for complaining about the haze. In comments carried by the Jakarta Globe newspaper in March, Mr Kalla said: "For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us...They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset."