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by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday):
Indonesia must accept full responsibility for their failure to fulfill their international obligations to ASEAN and Malaysia under the ASEAN Co-operation Plan on Transboundary Pollution to prevent haze caused by the illegal burning of forests. That is why DAP insists that Indonesia pay for its mistakes with adequate compensation for the health damage, economic losses and sufferings endured by 25 million Malaysians.
ASEAN Environment Ministers had in June 1995 agreed on an ASEAN Co-operation Plan on Transboundary Pollution. The Co-operation Plan contains broad policies and strategies to deal with transboundary pollution. ASEAN Environment Ministers had agreed on a Regional Haze Action Plan (RHAP), which sets out co- operative measures needed amongst ASEAN member countries to address the problem of smoke haze in the region arising from land and forest fires.
The Regional Haze Action Plan had 3 primary objectives namely:-
1. to prevent land and forest fires through better management policies and enforcement;
2. to establish operational mechanisms to monitor land and forest fires; and
3. to strengthen regional land and forest fire-fighting capability and other mitigating measures.
Failure To Comply And Develop Preventive Measures And Its National Action Plan
Amongst preventive measures taken by ASEAN countries include the need to strengthen national policies and strategies to prevent and mitigate land and forest fires. To effect this, ASEAN countries are to develop National Plans that serves to prevent and mitigate land and forest fires. These National Plans are supposed to be completed by March 1998 and contain the following aspects:-
Clearly Indonesia’s failure to comply and develop on its National Plans as required by the RHAP, has shown it not to be a reliable partner for ASEAN solidarity. Even though Indonesia is a poor country, it has a responsibility towards preventing forest fires that causes damaging haze. If Indonesia is unable to do cope with forest fires, it has both an international treaty obligation as well as a moral and ethical duty to seek immediate help from other international countries.
Indonesia’s refusal to seek international help has caused harm to its reputation but more importantly created much distrust and anger amongst Malaysians who can not work nor go to school and are forced to continuously breathe in poisonous air for 24 hours. DAP calls on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to seek an emergency meeting of ASEAN countries to discuss ways on how to compel Indonesia to fulfill its international obligations to ASEAN to check haze and prevent it from becoming a tragic annual disaster for Malaysians.