Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Palanivel off to Jakarta to “put out the fires”

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel who has been flayed online for his belated response to the haze crisis will be off to Jakarta tomorrow where his priority is to "put out the fires".

He said Malaysia wants an immediate solution to the crisis and his main task is to help the Indonesian government extinguish the blaze around Riau in central Sumatra.

"We are prepared to assist Indonesia by providing manpower and equipment. We can help in putting out the blaze and to bring the rain through cloud seeding," he told reporters at Wisma Sumber Asli in Putrajaya this evening.

"The haze problem is a national issue which has affected tourism, business and the economy. When I visited Muar over the weekend the hospital was packed with people suffering from haze-related illnesses."

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Palanivel declined to state outright his action plan for his meeting with Indonesian counterpart Balthasar Kambuaya but said he has "prepared all my notes".

"Malaysia has experience in dealing with peat fires and we are prepared to offer our expertise to Indonesia to assist them in solving a transnational and transboundary problem.

"Malaysia and Singapore are not happy with Indonesia for the various problems suffered by both countries due to the haze. We want to find a solution as fast as possible."

Palanivel said if Malaysian companies were found to be involved in illegal burning activities, the Indonesian government should not hesitate to prosecute them.

"I intend to meet the eight Malaysian companies who have plantations in Indonesia to get a clearer picture of what is happening there."

However, Palanivel said he would not be issuing any ultimatums to the Indonesian authorities regarding action against the errant companies.

"Ultimately, it is up to the Indonesians but we need to find a permanent solution to this problem rather than deal with it every year."

He also plans to bring forward the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution to the middle of July from August. He will also discuss with Balthasar Indonesia's latest position on ratification of the 2002 Southeast Asia Transboundary Haze Agreement (Seatha).

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