Friday, June 21, 2013

Haze 2013

Jun 21, 2013

Haze update: Seek solutions, not harsh words: PM Lee

By Zakir Hussain Indonesia Bureau Chief In Jakarta And Tan Dawn Wei

Instead of countering scathing remarks made by a senior Indonesian minister, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that he preferred to focus on solving the haze problem and reassuring Singaporeans they will be fine.

Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Agung Laksono, who is coordinating his country's relief and response efforts, had hit out at Singapore earlier at a press conference in Jakarta, saying: "Singapore shouldn't be like children, in such a tizzy."

PM Lee said it would not be "fruitful" for him to respond, and refused to be drawn into what he called "megaphone diplomacy".

"What we need to do is to solve the problem and also reassure our people that they will be okay and taken care of, and that everything which can be done is being done," he said.

"And I think we should work towards solving the problem rather than exchanging harsh words."

Mr Agung earlier told reporters that Singapore said nothing when there was fresh air, but complained about the occasional haze.

He also rebutted criticisms that Indonesia had yet to ratify an Asean pact on transboundary haze pollution. "Singapore is like that. The border issue hasn't been settled, neither has extradition, corruption."

Asked about offers of assistance from Singapore, he said: "If it is just half a million (dollars), better we use our own budget."

His remarks quickly drew a flurry of angry responses on The Straits Times' Facebook page. "We are not children, we are just taking precaution as it (the haze) is hazardous to our lives," said reader Mildred Lee.

[Summary: The Haze started to become noticeable (smoky smell, slight haziness in the week of 10 June 2013 - I believe it was noticeable on or about the 13 June. Over the weekend - 15 & 16 June, it was persistent, then got really bad (over PSI 100) in the week of 17 June. It has hit over PSI 400 (3 hour average) on 21 June.

Online comments have been... stupid. The Minister for the environment has been called useless, ineffective, unable to effect practical solutions... and threatened with the possibility of being voted out in 2016. WP must remember this. Or maybe SDP.

Other comments include asking why can't Indonesia or even Singapore seed the clouds to create rain to wash out the haze, or put out the fires. When told there are no clouds to seed, Singaporeans went, "whaddaya mean no clouds?"

Then there are comments like, "lets load up a C130 and drop water on the fires!" Like it was just a backyard blaze...

Or comments like, "this has been going on for over 15 years and still nothing has been done!" In Singapore, you complain about something and you can expect immediate interim solutions while long term solutions are implemented.

Not so in other countries.]

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