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silver_bird
15-08-2005, 01:02 AM
THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW:
SEEKING SOLUTION SEEMS HAZY
FARRAH NAZ KARIM

Aug 14, 2005
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Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar talks to FARRAH NAZ KARIM about the haze and what Malaysia could do to get Indonesia, the main source of the problem, to address the environmental disaster.

Q: How could Indonesia prevent a recurrence of the haze phenomenon?

A: Only when they pass the law prohibiting open burning to clear land and ratify the Asean Transboundary Haze Pollution Control Agreement can we talk about putting a stop to this problem.

Q: This is not a new problem. What is the Government going to do if prevention is not done and Malaysians suffer the haze again?

A: Indonesia must be made aware of the extent of our peopleís sufferings. They need to take quick action as Malaysians are actually dying because of the haze.

An emergency meeting among government heads must be called immediately to seek solutions and political commitment.

Q: Still, if they do not come up with ways to prevent a recurrence?

A: I canít speculate. Do you have the answer to that? The peopleís health is at stake, we know. We could send our army and go to war, but that will not happen.

Q: Why is it that Indonesia is adamant in its refusal to ratify the agreement on cross-border haze pollution?

A: I donít know why this is so, when six of its neighbours have already signed it.

Q: How would Indonesia ratifying the agreement benefit us?

A: When the haze originates from within a territory, it (the agreement) requires that the party concerned to respond promptly to a request for information sought by a country that is affected by transboundary haze pollution.

Q: The Asean secretary-general said that Indonesia does not want outside help to put out the fire. Why is this so?

A: Indonesia can handle the situation, and we were just offering assistance. I think our bilateral relations with Indonesia are good, letís not add fire to it.

Q: The slash-and-burn method to clear plantations is linked to the haze. If laws to make such practices illegal are not passed in Indonesia, we will be subjected to haze.

A: Well, that is why the region must come together to seek solutions to the problem and understand the effects such practices have on each other.

Q: While good bilateral relations are important, what about the Malaysian sentiment? The people are now badly affected by the haze originating from Indonesia and are angry that nothing much has been done about it on that side?

A: We are addressing the Malaysian sentiment and trying in the best way to tackle the problem with our neighbour.

The Government is doing its best in the interest of and for the well-being of the people.

Q: Is it possible to put some form of international pressure on Indonesia to handle the haze problem like what was done on China during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak?

A: I donít think we need to put any pressure on anyone. The problem will be neverending.

Q: You have many times said that the haze problem should be handled in the spirit of Asean but it has not lifted the haze problem in the region. Would the involvement of international bodies like the World Health Organisation make a difference?

A: We already have mechanisms that, if put in place, would help the region deal with the problem effectively.

Q: But that does not solve the problem for the people here?

A: If I follow your line of questioning, I will end up having a confrontation with our neighbour. This is a phenomenon that requires the full co-operation of Indonesia.

For the Malaysian public, we are doing all we can by publishing the Air Pollutant Index, providing all kinds of assistance and even declaring emergency in areas where necessary.

I hope Malaysians are satisfied with the action taken by the Government. With our neighbour, we have to handle it differently.

Q: Do you think Indonesiaís lack of response to the problem is due to the country not feeling the same effect of the haze since the wind is blowing it away?

A: I do not think that is the case. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has expressed his concern and the Indonesian Government was apologetic about the situation.

The help offered by the Malaysian Government to help douse the fire has also been well received.

Q: Are you satisfied with Indonesiaís effort to contain the haze problem?

A: That is not (something) we need to talk to each other (about), (but) at the highest level.

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