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11 months of clear sky

  • Our one and only planet can get burned down by the greed of a couple of money-crazy loonies.

Sin Chew Daily

Is the minister appointed by President Joko Widodo any wiser than people in the street?

Indonesia' environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said the smog blanketing much of Malaysia had not come from her country, but Sarawak and the Malay peninsula.

She even suspected that Malaysia had put the blame on Indonesia with the motive of covering up certain things.

Oh my God! What a revelation!

According to the minister, the fine particles that have been suspending in our air for weeks, making many of us feel sick and headache, and have piled up in our bloodstream and lungs, are made in Malaysia, not an Indonesian import!

So we have wrongly blamed our good neighbor for three decades, huh!

Nevertheless, charts published by the Asean Specialized Meteorological Center (ASMC) in Singapore revealed 387 hot spots in Sumatra and Riau, and another 474 in Kalimantan.

By comparison, there were only seven hot spots in Malaysia,

The charts also showed that the winds were blowing from Sumatra towards the Malay peninsula, and from Kalimantan towards Sarawak.

Unless the Indonesian minister has no idea how to read the charts, she shouldn't have claimed that we made the haze ourselves.

My apologies! I shouldn't have questioned the wisdom of a senior government official of a friendly neighbor country.

The last time I checked, Siti Nurbaya was an engineering graduate from Bogor Agricultural Institute, which means she should possess some of the most fundamental scientific knowledge, while the many meteorology and environment experts under her should have advised her properly.

The actual question does not lie with whether she knows the truth, but her reluctance to come face-to-face with it.

I had the privilege of meeting then vice president Jusuf Kalla in Jakarta four year ago.

September 2015, the region experienced its worst ever haze in history.

I took off from a smog-covered KLIA and landed two hours later under the clear sky of Jakarta.

The meeting was arranged at the open air lobby of the vice president's official residence. It was utterly comfortable with the balmy breeze.

After exchanging some words of greetings with my gracious host, I told him forthright that my country was suffering its worst ever haze, and asked whether Indonesia had any plans to tackle the problem.

This was how he replied: “We give you 11 months of fresh air a year, only one month of bad weather. What's there to complain?”

On my way home, I was pondering over the logic of “11 months of Malaysia's fresh air a gift from Indonesia”, which, coincidentally, is quite similar to Siti Nurbaya's argument that we have produced our own haze.

The point is, both leaders have opted to shun the problem instead of admitting it.

While experts can propose a hundred ways to battle the haze, nothing much can be done even if we have a thousand ways, if Jakarta is unwilling to face the problem.

To be honest, Jokowi has been relatively proactive when it comes to tackling the haze caused by forest fires in the republic. He personally inspected the sites of burning, and announced measures to deal with the problem, including stern actions against those responsible for illegal land clearings.

Such measures have somewhat mitigated the haze situation for the following years, but unfortunately, due to lack of continuity, poor attitude of government officials, economic interests, or some other reasons, we have seen a powerful comeback of haze this year.

The same thing happened recently in the Amazon.

The Amazon fires this year have been the most serious in history, burning at a rate of 1.5 football fields every minute!

Although the entire world was concerned about a looming global disaster, Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro was hardly moved.

NGOs accused the Brazilian government of condoning with land clearings by plantation owners and farmers, but the president rebutted that these NGOs were the ones actually setting fires for their own gains.

French president Emmanuel Macron initiated a donation campaign among G7 countries to help put out the fires, but the goodwill was dismissed by Bolsonaro who decried the move as an infringement on Brazil's sovereignty.

Thanks to his weird characters, it appears that the president will not be contented until the whole Amazon is charred.

Of course, he may have his hidden agenda. Some economists are of the opinion that China may turn to Brazil for its soybean supply as a result of trade disputes with Washington, and Bolsonaro saw the immense business opportunities and was more than happy to have the Amazon burned down to make way for agriculture.

Our one and only planet can get burned down by the greed of a couple of money-crazy loonies.


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