Newly-elected Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan have likely worsened diplomatic relations with Indonesia by openly calling the forest fire in Indonesia “deliberate” and “a crime”. Speaking to the media at a forum today (Nov 3), the Minister said he can be “brutally frank” with Indonesia.

“I know foreign ministers are supposed to be nice, smiley, diplomatic people. But since I used to be the Environment Minister, I can be frank. Brutally frank. …the transboundary haze, caused by forest fires in Indonesia, (is) a deliberate, man-made tragedy and a crime.

It would be bad enough if this was a natural disaster. We would all shake our heads, huddle together, reach out, help one another. But this is not a natural disaster. This is …vandalism against society, against the environment, and ultimately, against ourselves. It has impaired the health of millions of people, compromised the safety of aircraft, and damaged our regional economy”

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also pointed out that when private corporations make profits from the forest fire and the rest are made to suffer the effects, it is privatising the gains and socialising the pain.

Although it appears the new Foreign Minister has just “flexed” his muscles, it is unlikely his speech is going to improve the already-strained diplomatic relations between Singapore and Indonesia.