(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): There is a growing demand that Datuk Mohamed Rahmat should step down as Chairman of the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee as he has lost public confidence in his management of the national haze disaster.
There had been widespread reservations about the suitability of Datuk Mohamed Rahmat as the Anti-Haze Supremo, and his statements and actions in the past two weeks had only confirmed the worst fears that he is not the best man for the job.
How can a person who could within 24 hours raise the API level for a declaration of emergency from 301 to 500 have any credibility to be the Anti-Haze Supremo, apart from his public trivialisation of the haze disaster with regard to the dangers of smoking?
Even up to now, as Chairman of the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee, Mohamed Rahmat had not visited Sarawak, the state worst hit by the national haze disaster and he had not been able to use his influence to ensure that the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud should be in the Sarawak state to provide leadership and guidance to the people of Sarawak when faced with the worst pollution crisis in the stateís history.
I do not know whether Mohamed Rahmat would be accompanying the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who is scheduled to visit Sarawak today to assess the haze situation, but this itself would reflect most unfavourably on Mohamed Rahmat who should have visited Sarawak to assess the haze emergency even before the Deputy Prime Minister.
I believe that it would contribute to the restoration of public confidence in the governmentís handling of the national haze disaster if Mohamed Rahmat is replaced, and a good replacement would be Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, former Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry and senior Cabinet Minister, who had established very strong relations with Indonesian leaders during his long tenure in public life.
Ghazalie Shafie should be given Cabinet rank to be the Chairman of the National Disaster Management Committee. In fact, he should be a sort of Super-Minister like the former Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin in his present capacity as Economic Adviser, so that he could direct and deploy the various ministries in fighting the haze as a national disaster, not only for the immediate but for the long term in view of the grave health risks of the haze whether in inducing cancer or other ailments among Malaysians for the next ten to twenty years.
Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding, said yesterday that his Ministry would resubmit the Clean Air Action Plan which was scrapped by the Cabinet three years ago.
If five Cabinet Ministers had not objected to the Clean Air Action Plan as too costly for some industry, and the Planís objective to achieve a Clean Air Malaysia by 1997 had been implemented, Malaysia would have avoided the worst of the current haze disaster.
It is time that the Clean Air Action Plan which had been rejected by the Cabinet should be made public and there should be a debate on the Clean Air Action Plan in Parliament when it reconvenes on October 6.
I hope Datuk Law would agree that the first agenda of Parliament next week is the national haze disaster, which should be the subject of a comprehensive debate by MPs from all political parties.