Deputy minister: Jakarta yet to notify Putrajaya of Malaysian firms involved in open burning

Smoke covers trees during a forest fire next to a palm plantation in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia September 14, 2019. — Reuters pic
Smoke covers trees during a forest fire next to a palm plantation in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia September 14, 2019. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 ― The Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry (MESTECC) said it still has not received details of Malaysian companies accused of open burning in Indonesia.

During Question Time today, Deputy Minister Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis @ Fakharudy also stressed that Malaysia will continue urging Asean nations, especially Indonesia, to abide by the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

“On Asean level, Malaysia will continue playing its role by urging member nations, especially Indonesia, to abide by the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution to prevent the transboundary haze.

“I want to stress here that we have never protected any Malaysian companies if convicted for causing fires in Indonesia, and until now we have actually, also not received in- depth details of any companies in Indonesia,” she said, adding that this was made difficult to track, as foreign companies are usually required to ink joint ventures with local companies in countries they intend to open operations at.

She was responding to an additional question from Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad who asked as to how her ministry planned to address the blame game over the haze.

He also asked if the ministry could draft a mechanism for Malaysian companies with plantations in foreign countries including Indonesia to observe a strict environmental protection code.

She said that Malaysia' s own proposal for a transboundary haze law is still being studied.

Last month, Minister Yeo Bee Yin said her ministry will send a letter to the Asean Secretariat on the need to formulate and enforce a uniform trans-boundary haze law across the region to avoid a recurrence of the problem in the future.

Right now, only Singapore has enacted its Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA), which empowers its government to punish perpetrators that contribute to the haze domestically and allows individuals to take legal action against private companies abroad.

The law also targets companies and not countries that pollute the air as well as those who condone pollution by other companies or individuals.

Last month, Primary Industries Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin proposed in Dewan Rakyat a joint caucus between the Malaysian and Indonesian Parliaments to seek solutions to the annual transboundary haze.

He made his suggestion in reply to an additional question by Batang Sadong MP (BN) Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri who asked about the government’s efforts to resolve the annual problem.

Fires believed to have been started for land clearing in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Kalimantan were blamed for pollution that caused air quality to reach hazardous levels in parts of Malaysia last month.

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