Malaysia leaving it up to Indonesia to take stern action against haze culprits

The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur is shrouded with haze on Sept 14, 2019. PHOTO: AP

PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia said it is leaving it to Indonesia to investigate and prosecute companies that have contributed to the ongoing agricultural fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, even if those companies are subsidiaries of Malaysian-owned firms.

"The four (Malaysian) companies, it's up to the Indonesian government to investigate," said Ms Yeo Bee Yin, minister of energy, science technology, environment and climate change, on Saturday (Sept 14).

"We believe that Indonesian government should do what's necessary to investigate and take action against those proven to be against the law."

Speaking to reporters, she added that "Indonesia has full power to enforce its law on its land" after reports that four of the 30 companies that were sealed off by Indonesia on Friday belonged to Malaysia's Sime Darby, IOI Corporation, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK), and TDM Berhad.

"Asean does not have an Asean transboundary haze Act. That means enforcement has to be according to the country," she said.

Sime Darby and IOI Group said on Friday that they have not received notification that their plantations in Indonesia, operated by their subsidiaries, were sealed off.

Meanwhile, KLK issued a statement on Saturday morning confirming that a fire did occur on its plantation, affecting 2.8ha of its 14,400ha estate.

"This hot spot was successfully extinguished within the same day," the statement said. "At present, 4.25 hectare which includes an isolation area has been sealed off for on-going investigations".

On Saturday afternoon, northern Peninsular Malaysia got a brief respite from the haze after north-west winds cleared the skies.

However, hazy conditions continued in Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang and Johor.

Some 220 schools and institutions of higher learning in Johor's Tangkak and Muar will close on Sunday (Sept 15) as the air pollutant index (API) reading in the southernmost state of Peninsular Malaysia hit 211 in the afternoon in Tangkak.

The API levels in some parts of Sarawak also descended into the "very unhealthy" zone with an API reading of 228 recorded in the capital city of Kuching at noon on Saturday, while two locations in Sabah saw unhealthy API levels on Saturday night.

Malaysia's department of environment categorises unhealthy API as between 101-200, very unhealthy between 201-300, and above 300 as hazardous.

The number of hot spots in Kalimantan has decreased to 627 on Saturday, from 859 the day before.

Meanwhile, the number of hot spots in Sumatra has gone down to 55 from 115. Malaysia recorded 11 hot spots, 10 of which were in Sabah and Sarawak.

Ms Yeo said the government is now focused on cloud seeding areas within Selangor, if cloud conditions permit.

But she cautioned that such measures are merely "temporary relief and it only helps a little".

Ultimately, she said , the haze can be cleared through "putting out the fires together so we can swiftly resolve the haze situation as soon as possible".

Malaysia has offered to provide assistance to Indonesia to put out the fires.

Indonesia said it has upped its firefighting personnel and machinery, with more than 2,000 deployed on the ground and more aircraft expected to be sent out to douse the flames.

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