Singapore welcomes Jakarta's assurance on haze

Singapore welcomes Indonesia's assurance that the country is serious about tackling the forest fires that cause the haze, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

His comments on Facebook come after an Indonesian official remarked that his country was "misperceived" to be opposing Singapore's action against companies behind fires in Indonesia that led to last year's haze crisis.

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir had said on Thursday that whatever legal action any country wishes to take against Indonesian firms and their employees would have to be in line with international regulations.

"He must be guaranteed his legal rights, he must be assured that (the action) is in line with the law, he has to be given counsel and so on, that is what we are more concerned about," he added.

Mr Arrmanatha was responding to a question from The Straits Times at a weekly press briefing on Thursday about recent remarks by Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

The two politicians had spoken up against the Republic's move to take court action against an Indonesian company director via the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) of Singapore .

Mr Arrmanatha said it was Singapore's right to summon the company director for questioning but he emphasised that the process must be done according to the law.

He also reiterated that Indonesia is serious and highly committed to tackling the forest fires that cause the haze, using existing mechanisms in the context of Asean.

Mr Masagos yesterday described Mr Arrmanatha's remarks as a "good outcome" to what has been an ongoing tit-for-tat between the two countries over the issue.

He also assured Indonesia that the THPA complies with international law and welcomed Mr Arrmanatha's assurance about Indonesia's commitment towards tackling the crisis.

"We also look forward to continuing to work together to eradicate the transboundary haze pollution that has plagued the region for decades."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore welcomes Jakarta's assurance on haze'. Print Edition | Subscribe