Indonesian president apologises for haze disaster

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono2

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on June 25 apologised to Singapore and Malaysia for the hazardous smog that forest fires have blown over the two nations, causing businesses and schools to shut down, tourists to flee and hospitals to work around the clock.

“For what is happening, as the president, I apologise to our brothers in Singapore and Malaysia,” Yudhoyono said. He asked for their understanding and said “Indonesia is working hard to fight the fires.”

Jakarta has dispatched planes and helicopters to battle the blazes on the island of Sumatra, where the smoke easily drifts across the sea to the two neighbouring countries.

Yudhoyono also said he had ordered a “thorough investigation” into the fires.

Malaysia declared a state of emergency on June 23 in a district where the haze triggered one of the country’s worst pollution levels, while Singapore has urged citizens to remain indoors because of hazardous levels of pollution.

Last week, the Indonesian co-ordinating minister for people’s welfare, Agung Laksono, slammed critical comments by Singaporean officials about the haze, saying they should have been conveyed through diplomatic channels instead of publicly.

”Singapore should not act like children, making all that noise,” he said, causing widespread disgust about the wording.