(Teluk Intan, Wednesday): I welcome the statement by the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding, who said yesterday that Malaysian would consider the possibility of claiming compensation from Indonesia as a result of the haze disaster caused by the raging thousands of forest and plantation fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
The government should not just consider the possibility of claiming compensation but should take a decision to make such a compensation claim. Firstly, the government should commission a study of the damages suffered by Malaysia, whether to the economy, environment or health, by the worst haze in Malaysian history and submit such a claim to the Indonesian government.
A newspaper has reported that there is no provision in the law to allow Malaysians to make a claim of compensation from the Indonesian Government for losses as a result of the haze from the fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Although there is no law to allow Malaysians to make such a compensation claim from the Indonesian Government, this cannot prevent the Malaysian Government from acting on behalf of Malaysians and submit such a claim for compensation to the Indonesian Government, which should show that it is a responsible member of the international community by accepting such a claim.
In fact,filing such a claim for compensation would also make the Indonesian Government more responsible in future in taking speedy and effective measures to ensure that forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan do not create life and health-threatening hazards to tens of millions of people not only in Indonesia, but also in neighbouring countries in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines and Thailand.
The statement by the Indonesian National Disaster Management Co-ordinating Agency, Azwar Anas, rejecting responsibility for the hazardous haze blanketting large areas of South East Asia is most unexpected and shocking.
It makes a mockery of the apology publicly tendered by Indonesian President Suharto to neighbouring ASEAN countries because of the damages caused by the Indonesian fires.
Malaysian Foreign Ministry officials should seek a clarification as to whether President Suharto’s apology still stands or whether it had been retracted by the Indonesian Government through the statement by Azwar Anas.
I call on Malaysians to support the "Clean Air for Our Children - Let 1997 Haze be the last worst haze" mass signature campaign to demand that the Indonesian Government should compensate Malaysia for the losses incurred as a result of the worst haze in Malaysian history caused by the raging thousands of forest and plantation fires in Indonesia.
The third of the six-point demand in the "Clean Air for Our Children - Let 1997 Haze be the last worse haze" mass signature campaign reads: "That the Government conduct a costing of the damages which have been caused to the Malaysian economy and people by the haze and that a claim for compensation should be submitted to the Indonesian Government."