(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The ASEAN Economic Ministersí Meeting beginning in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow should include in the agenda the haze environmental disaster, particularly on damages to the various ASEAN economies and the question of Indonesian compensation to the neighbouring countries as the raging thousands of fires in Indonesia are the primary cause of such man-made disaster.
The Malaysian Government has estimated that Sarawak lost RM100 million a day during the 10-day haze emergency last month, which means Sarawak suffered losses of RM1 billion ringgit during the haze emergency.
The losses suffered by Malaysians, whether to the economy, environment and health of the people, therefore is in the region of billions of ringgit, which must be borne by the Indonesian Government on the "Polluter pays" principle.
This demand has received the endorsement of over 30,000 Malaysians who have supported the "Clean Air For Our Children - Let the 1997 Haze be the last worst haze" mass signature campaign in the past two weeks.
As a first step, the ASEAN Economic Ministers should reach an accord to set up a special task force to assess the economic costs of the haze disaster in the region, which has been described as an global environmental catastrophe - so as to calculate the costs caused by the loss in business, the decline in tourism, cancelled events, accidents, the drop in productivity due to sickness, the rise in health-care expenditure and to damage to crop and livestock.
Secondly, the ASEAN Economic Ministers should establish a mechanism whereby such economic costs of the haze disaster could be claimed from the country responsible for the transboundary pollution.
In this connection, the Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz should express Malaysiaís concern and even protests over reports that new fires are being started in Indonesia, which are being borne out by the latest satellite pictures which show more hot spots in Indonesia.