(Dewan Rakyat, Wednesday): I am going to begin very unconventionally, as I have received a SOS email from Miri, which clearly reflects the long-suppressed outrage of the people of Miri that their basic human needs and rights to a clean environment and healthcare had been completely ignored by the government, both Federal and State, for the past two months, and it is only right and proper that the cries of the people of Miri are brought to the attention of the highest chamber in the land, Parliament, at the first available opportunity.
This email carries a description of Miri on Monday, as follows:
"Am in Miri this morning and to my surprise this town is next to be called a dying town with the environment so unhealthy and the air is so polluted and not even fit for human breathing anymore.
"I landed Miri from Kuala Lumpur last night and even while we are about 10 miles approaching the town, we could already smell the smell of smoke in the aircraft when it was sucked through the air-conditioning system.
"This morning, while I was standing at the roundabout in front of Grand Palace Hotel, can you believe that I could barely see the hotel in front of me ?
"How could Mirians stand all this since 2 months ago ? How many children will grow up to develop some lungs diseases in the next 3 - 5 years time ?
"The API for this morning haze/smog could easily reach 1000 plus. While Kuching was having 800 during the last September '97 haze, everyone panicked and government and private offices/schools were immediately closed and Kuching was almost pronounced on 'emergency'.
"Why was no action taken for Miri until now ?
"Water in Miri is another problem. Went to a friend's house and he told me every morning, the water came only at twilight hours for barely a couple of hours. Then, it will stop and rationed until the end of the day.
"The wells they dug is almost reaching the base and soon 'air' will be sucked up instead of water. They are trying to look elsewhere for water, but how is it possible if they don't hit 'oil' instead."
I am not surprised therefore that in the Sarawak Talk on the Internet yesterday, there was this posting:
"Today , proudly this morning NST ‘SMOKE IN KALIMANTAN WON'T AFFECT PENINSULA’ But did not mention anything that Sarawak particulary Miri and its surrounding was hit badly for so long until .........../
"NST only mentioned about the visibilty in Miri reduced to 500 meters & Labuan 700 meters. No API reading was given.
"Antara news agency ‘Kalimantanese suffering from respiratory problems including Pneumonia and asthma’ How about Mirian ?
"Sultan Of Brunei has Sack the country's Health Minister due to the haze.
"Sack environment and health minister......?"
The people of Miri feel that for two months they had been abandoned by the Malaysian and Sarawak state governments, as if they are not part of Malaysia. I hope the deep sense of alienation, frustration and anger would find full reflection in the current debate of Parliament, with the government taking immediate and radical actions to stop giving the people of Miri the feeling that they are as good as living on Mars on another planet, not just another country.
And yesterday, I received this urgent email from Sabah:
"Kindly call for an emergency motion to discuss the HAZE problem in Sabah. It looks like the state government here is not bothered at all. No API readings. No warnings. Most of the haze here is locally caused. But the Bomba here is ill-equipped or not bothered to do anything. Most bush and forest fires burn themselves out. The worst days are Sundays; simply because most developers and land clearers consider Saturday evenings as the best time to burn off their rubbish and escape what little enforcement there is. There is no effort to mobilize the local population or the village JKKs. What about the civil defense units?"
Is anybody in the Federal Government and the respective State Governments listening?