Indonesia’s Vice-President Jusuf Kalla damaged international relations on Thursday (Sep 24) by being publicly unapologetic over the serious air pollution caused by forest burning in his country. In a dialogue session with Indonesians living in New York, the VP said that countries like Singapore and Malaysia have been “enjoying fresh air” from Indonesia and questioned if they have been grateful for that:
“”Look at how long they have enjoyed fresh air from our green environment and forests when there were no fires. Could be months. Are they grateful? But when forest fires occur, a month at the most, haze pollutes their regions. So why should there be an apology?”
Jusuf Lalla also added that Singapore and Malaysia companies are paying Indonesian locals to clear land using the burning method. The Indonesian VP also blamed several foreign companies who “taught” Indonesian companies how to burn the forest:
“They taught us to destroy forests. As a result, using development as an excuse, our forests were felled. Our peatlands were opened up. Wet peatlands dried up, making them easier to burn”
The haze in Singapore has caused schools to close down for a day and severe health concerns among Singaporeans. The Indonesian government has declined offers from Singapore to help put out the fire as they believe they are capable of managing the crisis. Forest burning in Indonesia is a yearly affair as farmers find it cheaper and more efficient to set acres of trees on fire than to cut them down.