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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today he would like to ask Indonesian President Joko Widodo why Jakarta has refused Malaysia’s help to fight the forest fires causing smog in the region.
“I would like to ask, ‘why you don’t want to receive our help?’
“But I have not done that,” the Langkawi MP said, when asked at a press conference here.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia has voluntarily offered aid to fight the forest fires currently raging across large swathes of peatlands in Kalimantan and Sumatera, only for Jakarta to refuse.
“We have offered all the time,” he added.
“We have airplanes that are specially made for water bombings and I think that can be used.”
Over the past few weeks, Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore have been choked by smoky air from forest fires started to clear land for plantations, forcing schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles.
On Tuesday, Dr Mahathir had said Malaysia was considering a new law to compel its companies to tackle fires on land they control abroad, a move observers said could cause bilateral tension.
Malaysia will also consider deploying drones to help in cloud seeding, the prime minister told a separate news conference.
Earlier today, Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the government will push its South-east Asian neighbours to strengthen cooperation in finding a long-term solution for smog wafted across the region from forest fires in Indonesia.