Why no declaration of emergency although API for Miri had registered 633 at 4 p.m. yesterday


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Sarawak State Government had directed all schools in Miri Division to be closed from yesterday until further notice due to the worsening haze situation as the Air Pollution Index (API) for Miri reached 633 at 4 p.m. yesterday.

The people of Miri and Malaysia are asking, however, why there was no declaration of a state of emergency although the Air Pollution Index (API) for Miri had registered 633 at 4 p.m. yesterday, while at 12 noon, it ws 620.

Malaysians still remember that last year, the Information Minister, Datuk Mohamad Rahmat, in his capacity as Chairman of the National Disaster and Relief Management Committee had said that a state of emergency would be declared once the API had reached the hazardous level of 300. However, he changed his mind later and said that a state of emergency would only be declared if the API hits 500.

Can Mohamad Rahmat explain why there is no declaration of a state of emergency as the API in Miri has reached 633? Or has the level for a declaration of a state of emergency again been raised to around 700 for the API?

In fact, although Mohamad Rahmat is the Chairman of the National Disaster and Relief Management Committee, he seems to be blissfully unconcerned about the plight of the long-suffering people in Miri as a result of persistent haze in the area.

May be, Mohamad Rahmat should explain whether his National Disaster and Relief Management Committee had excluded Miri or Sarawak from its area of jurisdiction and responsibility!

There is also very little concern or interest from the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud, who had created a state and national scandal in absconding from Sarawak last September during the emergency as a result of the haze.

He had subsequently returned with the explanation he had in fact gone overseas to seek expert assistance to deal with any future haze disaster.

With the special expertise Taib Mahmud had gained in his overseas mission last September, the Sarawak Chief Minister should be showing the people of Sarawak the benefits of his trip abroad by personally leading the state governmentís efforts to resolve the second haze disaster in Sarawak in six months. Instead, Taib Mahmud had been strangely silent. Have all the public monies spent on Taib Mahmudís overseas trip during the haze emergency last September been a total waste?

The Sarawak State Government seems to have acted with greater seriousness about the haze disaster only after the opening of Parliament, as for instance, the closing of all kindergartens and nurseries in Miri and Limbang Divisions last Thursday. A day earlier, I had raised the Miri haze disaster at the very beginning of my speech in Parliament on the Royal Address and conveyed the outrage of the people of Miri and Sarawak at the indifference of the Federal and State Governments to their sufferings. Yesterday, I had again raised the Miri haze disaster during question time. I am also going to raise the Miri haze disaster in Parliament today.

The authorities concerned should not wait until there is a Parliamentary meeting before taking the necessary actions to protect the people of Miri and Sarawak from the ill-effects of the haze. The people of Miri and Sarawak should not be made to feel that they are being discriminated against and are not getting the proper and due attention which the authorities would have given if a similar haze situation had occurred in the Federal Capital.

(31/3/98)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong