On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Enough is enough, Indonesia

Indonesia has fingered 10 Malaysian-owned plantations as
being responsible for the starting the fires. If that is the case, it should
name the culprits. The owners should not only be prosecuted but if found guilty
should be severely punished and even jailed if this is provided for under the

These people should also be made to pay compensation, for they have profited at
the expense of others. They should not be let off so easily.

That aside, the forest fires are also the work of farmers in Sumatra who slash
and burn these forests to clear their land. It is as simple as that. We have
all along known the source of the problem since 1990 when Asean leaders met to
talk about these hotspots.

But 15 years later, the talk has not moved beyond anything else.  To put it bluntly, it has been all talk and
nothing else. For the last few years, we have had to send our fire fighters and
ministers to Indonesia to seek their cooperation.

We have heard the apologies from Indonesia before but maybe it's time we
invited the Indonesian officials to come over and see the problem for
themselves. Jakarta doesn't have a smog problem, Kuala Lumpur does.

The Indonesians will able to understand our frustration, and even anger, better
if they can spend a few days walking the streets of Kuala Lumpur and Port Klang
and Kuala Selangor, the last two having been declared emergency areas.

Work has been disrupted and obviously money and productivity lost as a result
of such yearly burning in Indonesia. More important, our health has been
affected because of the foul air and that is worrying.

Malaysians do not care if the haze is confined to Indonesia as a result of the
indiscriminate burning but, unfortunately, it has affected us. Tomorrow, the
wind may just blow to Singapore.

Yesterday, haze reduced visibility in the Straits of Malacca to less than 1km,
posing risks to ships while vessels at Port Klang have been beached.

The question is what guarantee can Indonesia give us that Malaysians will not
have to go through this again this time next year? Do we have to put with more
joint committees and sub-committees to come up with more meaningless

Or are Malaysians supposed to adopt a positive attitude in the face of the smog
in the spirit of good neighbourliness as the farmers and greedy plantation
owners get back to their irresponsible action next week?

At our end, the government too has set up committees in the past with promises
of early warning systems but, obviously, we are defenceless when such a problem
hits us.

But for the moment, we have no choice but to offer to send to our fire fighters
there to help put out the fires. We are, of course, supposed to be thankful
that the offer has been accepted.

Malaysians, however, must appreciate the decision of Prime Minister Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to release the air pollutant indices for the first time
after six years.

Until now, for some strange reason, these figures have been regarded as a state
secret for fear of scaring away tourists. Common sense has finally prevailed
because the health of Malaysians is far more important than tourist

Indonesia has to wake up to the fact that the forest fires have become an Asean
problem, full stop. Let's end this annual ritual once and for all with serious

Bisa diatur, as our neighbour would say. ("Can be arranged" in Bahasa