Minister: Malaysian firms in Indonesia among culprits

  • Nation
  • Friday, 12 Aug 2005

MEDAN: Fires raging in Sumatra are due to open burning activity in forests and plantations in Riau and northern Sumatra, and the Indonesian side has implicated Malaysian companies.  

Indonesian Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban said 10 Malaysian-owned companies operating in the region were among the culprits. 

On Aug 10, Indonesian authorities detected 788 hotspots in Riau, which is one of the main causes of the haze that has blanketed a huge part of the Klang Valley.  

Malam Sambat said the fires were mainly due to forest clearing activity, with fires also detected in plantations and farms.  

“The major fires are in oil palm plantations and this has caused the thick haze in Malaysia. Fires have also been detected in West Kalimantan,” he told reporters after a meeting with Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Adenan Satem and Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin who flew in here yesterday.  

UNCONTROLLED BURNING: Plumes of smoke and haze from open-burning activities in farms inSumatra blanketing the outskirts of Medan. This picture was taken on the flight to Medan yesterday.

Declining to name the Malaysian companies involved, Malam Sambat said: “We will consider Malaysia’s offer to conduct cloud-seeding over Riau and also the offer to send manpower to help us put out the fires.  

“I will convey this offer to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The earliest possibility for the Malaysian offer to materialise would be by the end of the month.”  

He said Indonesia and Malaysia would work closely to overcome the fires and the haze.  

“There has to be a change in the way farmers clear land. When they do so in peat land, they have to be told to dig canals between plots to maintain the water table so that fires won’t start,” he said, adding that plantation owners caught conducting open burning would be prosecuted.  

While on the flight to Medan yesterday, the Malaysian delegation had a bird’s eye view of the burning as the aircraft approached the island of Sumatra.  

Chin said the bosses of the Malaysian-owned plantation firms implicated would be hauled up and given a “piece of our mind”. 

“Our Indonesian counterparts have been asked to provide us with the list of those found doing so as soon as possible,” he said. 

He added that the ministry would investigate and track down the parent companies in Kuala Lumpur once the list was provided.  

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