Sin­ga­pore to defy In­done­sia over last year’s fires

The Myanmar Times - - World -

SIN­GA­PORE is re­fus­ing to back down in its pur­suit of those re­spon­si­ble for haze-belch­ing for­est fires in South­east Asia last year, de­spite strug­gling to bring the per­pe­tra­tors be­fore the courts and draw­ing a sharp re­buke from neigh­bour­ing In­done­sia.

For­est fires are part of an an­nual dry-sea­son prob­lem in In­done­sia, started il­le­gally to quickly and cheaply clear land for cultivation – par­tic­u­larly for palm oil and pulp­wood.

But last year’s haze out­break was among the worst in mem­ory, shroud­ing Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore and parts of Thai­land in acrid smoke as pol­lu­tion reached haz­ardous lev­els and thou­sands fell sick across the re­gion.

Sin­ga­pore has served no­tice to six In­done­sian com­pa­nies it be­lieves may have cleared land by burn­ing but could tar­get others as in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­tinue, ac­cord­ing to Sin­ga­pore’s am­bas­sador to In­done­sia Anil Ku­mar Na­yar.

How­ever, the city-state’s ef­forts to pun­ish In­done­sian com­pa­nies un­der its own anti-haze law have be­come a flash­point with Jakarta.

Sin­ga­pore ar­gues that in­ter­na­tional rules al­low states to take ac­tion – even if harm is be­ing caused by ac­tiv­i­ties out­side its ju­ris­dic­tion – but Jakarta has ques­tioned how Sin­ga­pore could pur­sue In­done­sian cit­i­zens for pros­e­cu­tion, es­pe­cially in the ab­sence of a rat­i­fied ex­tra­di­tion treaty be­tween the neigh­bours.

The lat­est sabre-rat­tling came af­ter Sin­ga­pore is­sued a court war­rant to de­tain a di­rec­tor of an In­done­sian com­pany linked to the haze while he was in the city-state.

Af­ter­ward, In­done­sia’s En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Siti Nur­baya Bakar said that she would be re­view­ing her min­istry’s co­op­er­a­tion with Sin­ga­pore on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

The law threat­ens lo­cal and for­eign firms with fines of up to S$100,000 (US$74,000) for ev­ery day Sin­ga­pore en­dures un­healthy haze pol­lu­tion.

Sin­ga­pore has re­peat­edly asked In­done­sia for de­tails about com­pa­nies but says Jakarta has not pro­vided any in­for­ma­tion.

Fel­low ASEAN mem­ber Malaysia, which also suf­fers greatly from the haze each year, has ex­pressed in­ter­est in adopt­ing its own law sim­i­lar to Sin­ga­pore’s to pur­sue er­rant com­pa­nies.

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