Singapore to push Indonesia further over haze crisis; seeks Jakarta's help in punishing erring companies

Ambassador Anil Kumar says Singapore wants Indonesia to act against firms responsible for haze crisis of last year.

Singapore wants to tie up with Indonesia to penalize companies that contributed to the haze crisis last year, said Ambassador Anil Kumar.

"At this stage we are still focused on working with the Indonesian government to go against these companies," Anil Kumar, Singapore's top envoy in Jakarta told AFP.

He referred to the use of Singapore's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) to get hold of the plantation operators responsible for the illegal forest fires in Indonesia.

This move has created an uncomfortable relationship between both the countries. But it reached its peak when Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) acquired a court warrant in May against the director of an Indonesian firm that was linked to fires that caused the haze last year.

Indonesia did not help Singapore with the information regarding those plantation firms. However, Anil Kumar said they can obtain that information from other sources as well as from non-government organizations.

"We could go that way as well but at the end of the day, this is part of a legal process," he said. "We want to be working with the Indonesian government to get the evidence that we need to take action against these errant companies," he added.

Last year, thick smog from forest fires in Indonesia had spread across many parts of South-east Asia which increased the air pollution level extensively. But experts are expecting lesser amount this year due to favorable weather forecast.

"If this year is not going to be as bad as last year, hopefully that would mean we are on better grounds to work together, to try and try to deal with some of these root causes of the problem," Kumar continued.

He also said that it is clear that Indonesian President Joko Widodo is committed to end this haze problem.

"I recall that even when he was still President-elect, before he took up office, he did talk about the haze issue... and he made it very clear that one of his task as president would be to systemically work towards eradicating this problem," said Kumar.

Kumar also said that in spite all these, there is enough room to work together systematically to end this problem and hence Singapore is willing co-operate with Indonesia.