10 October 2006.
His Excellency the Indonesian Ambassador To Malaysia
Through the Deputy Ambassador His Excellency Abdul Rahman Muhamad Fachir,
The Indonesian Embassy,
Jalan Tun Razak,
Kuala Lumpur. BY HAND
Ratify the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Agreement Now, Impose An Enforcement And Liability Mechanism To Punish Offenders And Demand Compensation For The Annual Haze Disaster That Has Caused Devastating Economic Losses, Loss Of Life And Severely Affected The Health And Lifestyle Of Malaysians.
On behalf of 26 million Malaysians, the DAP expresses the burning anger of our sufferings caused by the annual haze disaster befalling our region and the lack of commitment on the part of your government to prevent open fires of your forests in Borneo and Sumatera.
In 1997 and 1998 made many in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand sick and caused regional economies $9 billion in damage to their farming, transport and tourism sectors. Last year in August, Malaysia declared a state of emergency not because of external threats, economic disorder or internal civil war but air pollution, a situation never contemplated by our founding fathers.
Only yesterday, three men were killed and four injured in an accident near Bahau in Negeri Sembilan, the worst affected state in Peninsular Malaysia due to poor visibility conditions caused by the haze. More than 10 people died last year due to haze. How many more lives must be lost? Conditions are even more severe in Sarawak where the Air Pollution Index(API) is reaching dangerous levels.
We urge your government to ratify the ASEAN Transboundary Haze agreement now, impose an enforcement and liability mechanism to punish offenders and demand compensation for the annual haze disaster that has caused devastating billion dollar economic losses, loss of life and severely affected the health and lifestyle of Malaysians.
Asthma attacks have soared, tourism is affected and flights cancelled. Only when Indonesia ratifies the agreement can member ASEAN countries set up a centre so that prevention and extinguishing of fires can be done easily.
This Haze agreement was signed in June in 2002 and came into force in November 2003. All Asean nations have ratified this agreement except the Indonesian government, the main source of air pollution. Refusal to ratify is incomprehensible, irresponsible and an unfriendly act when your government’s past repeated assurances of action preventing a recurrence of the haze nightmare have been hopelessly ineffective.
Your government has not even informed or sought material and manpower help from other neighbouring ASEAN countries to help put out the open forest fires when your government officials, such as the Central Kalimantan fire-fighting task force head Agung Catur, openly admitted their helplessness and could only seek prayers for rain as a final desperate solution. There is no shame to seek help but a great wrong to allow the whole region to suffer due to your refusal to monitor the situation and take remedial measures.
Indonesia’s denial syndrome with tragic consequences for peoples neighbouring Indonesia is unacceptable. Accordingly many Malaysians feel that the Indonesian government should pay compensation to victims not because of your inability to prevent the forest fires but due to your refusal to take preventive measures by monitoring and seek help from other ASEAN countries to help put out the open fires. Stern action must be taken against the perpetrators, including any Malaysian plantation companies, with severe enforcement of penalties and compensation for damages and liabilities caused.
By ratifying the Haze Agreement the whole region can comply with the Asean Regional Haze Action Plan (RHAP), developing national plans to prevent and mitigate land and forest fires, including the prohibition of open burning and the strict control of slash-and-burn practices during the dry period.
Any more delay would kill. According to a paper by a Princeton-trained demographer Narayan Sastry entitled, "Forest Fires, Air Pollution, and Mortality in SE Asia" in the February 2002 issue of the journal Demography,
“For a 15-day period in September 1997, the API in Kuching reached or exceeded 850. The highest reading recorded was 930, and visibility was down to about 10m. In Peninsular Malaysia, API readings hovered in the 200-300 range during the same period.
A high air pollution day associated with the smoke haze increased the total all-cause mortality by roughly 20%. Higher mortality was apparent in two locations - Kuala Lumpur and Kuching - and affected mostly the elderly. In Kuala Lumpur, non-traumatic mortality among the population aged 65-74 increased about 70% following a day of high levels of air pollution.
Professor (Health & Development), School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia Chan Chee Khoon said this article showed that the acute (immediate) death rate among elderly people (excluding deaths due to accidents or violence) increased by 70% when API readings exceeded 210 and there is strongly suggestive evidence that the smog such as we experience now are not merely an eyesore that causes discomfort - it kills.
Malaysians have died in accidents caused by poor visibility. Many will die due to air pollution. Stop the killing of your own people and your neighbours now!
LIM GUAN ENG