(Penang, Monday): Malaysians must be very concerned about latest reports from Indonesia that hundreds of new fires have broken out, and more are expected because of the continuing drought, rekindling fears of the return of the haze that blanketed much of Southeast Asia last year.
The Antara news agency says satellite photographs showed the latest fires are in East Kalimantan, adding that foliage there had started to smoulder because of a continuing drought and that smoke had reduced visibility.
Antara says the drought is expected to continue until June because of the El Nino weather pattern.
On February 2, the Information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat will attend the five-day Asian Regional Meeting on El Nino Related Crisis in Bangkok.
As Chairman of the National Disaster and Relief Management Committee, Mohamed Rahmat should get an iron-clad guarantee from his Indonesian counterpart that there would be no recurrence of the haze catastrophe in the second half of last year, causing grave damage to the economy, environment, lives and health of millions of people in the region.
If Indonesia is incapable of preventing a recurrence of another haze catastrophe, the handling of this new haze catastrophe should be internationalised and the Indonesian Government should allow an international team to take over the responsibility of ensuring that El Nino would not bring about a second haze catastrophe in South East Asia in six months.