The statement by the Science, Technology and Environment Minister Datuk Law Hieng Ding that the Cabinet had decided not to overly publicise the readings so as not to "drive away tourists" is most deplorable, another example after the disastrous Nipah virus epidemic which cost the lives of 105 people and ruined the RM2.5 billion pig rearing and pork industry where the government is prepared to sacrifice public health interests for tourist revenue.
This is a short-sighted policy, believing that in the world of instant communications it is possible to keep intending tourists in the dark about the return of the haze problem in Malaysia and South East Asia.
The Malaysian authorities should realise that although it could control local mass media, there is no way it could control the international media. For instance, a Japanese news agency yesterday reported about the return of the haze problem in South East Asia, following forest and plantation fires in Indonesia since the dry season began last month and affecting some parts of Malaysia and disrupting land and sea traffic and flight schedules.
It quoted the Jakarta Post as reporting that smoke from forest and plantation fires had begun to darken the skies over some parts of Sumatra's Riau Province and in Kalimantan, causing "a slight haze shrouding parts of Malaysia" and disrupting marine traffic.
The Environment Minister said yesterday that the country’s overall air quality was between good and moderate with 16 air monitoring stations recording an API reading of below 50, and 13 stations recording a reading of below 100.
If Malaysia’s air pollution index are within healthy levels, then it should be further reason why the API index should be made public instead of being kept a secret, so as not to create a crisis of confidence that the government is not being honest about the return of the haze problem in Malaysia.