Malaysia—Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad expressed bewilderment at Jakarta’s dismissal of Malaysia’s aid to put out the raging forest fires that are gravely affecting neigbours such as Sumatra, Malaysia, Kalimantan, and Singapore.
Prime Minister Mahathir said that Malaysia “had offered help all the time” to put out the fires, but he wondered why Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo refused aid.
“I don’t know why Indonesia is not accepting our help. I would also like to ask [President Widodo] why the government doesn’t want to receive our help but I have not done that yet,” PM Mahathir was quoted as saying in a report by The Malay Mail.
Malaysia had reportedly taken steps to address the effects of the haze and air pollution through cloud seeding to trigger artificial rain and closed down schools to mitigate health risks on citizens.
While Indonesian police have arrested several suspects linked to the forest fires, neighbouring governments and citizens still question Indonesia’s commitment to complying with the ASEAN regional treaty on haze.
The ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, ratified in 2014, provides methods for neighbours assisting one another in the yearly incidents of forest fires.
The agreement states that “Assistance can only be employed at the request of and with the consent of the requesting Party, or, when offered by another Party or Parties, with the consent of the receiving Party.”
All affected governments must consent to the assistance in order to proceed with ASEAN’s Coordinating Center for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control.
Even though the Indonesian government expressed its move to control the fires, preventive measures against slash-and-burn practices for land clearing are not strictly enforced./TISG