Update COVID-19 in Indonesia: 497,668 confirmed infections, 15,884 deaths (23 November 2020)
23 November 2020 (closed)
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Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla stated that he does not agree with Singapore's attempts to take legal action against those Indonesian individuals and companies that are responsible for the forest fires on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan that resulted in the severe haze that spread to Singapore (and other parts of Southeast Asia) in 2015. The toxic smog caused economic costs in Indonesia's neighboring countries. Kalla said Indonesia will not support Singapore in this case as the offense occurred in Indonesia, not in Singapore. As such, it would be an attack on Indonesia's sovereignty.
Based on the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act 2014, Singapore can prosecute individuals and companies that are responsible for the haze that spreads across boundaries. Singaporean authorities stated that they are prepared to prosecute and showed their commitment by ordering six suppliers of Asia Pulp and Paper, one of Indonesia's largest pulp and paper companies, to come to Singapore and explain their plans to prevent forest fires on their lands. Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, who can rely on support of the international community, said companies responsible for the haze that spreads to Singapore and who fail to implement measures that can prevent such haze spreading to neighboring countries can face fines up to USD $100,000 per day.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore obtained a court warrant against an Indonesian director who failed to show up for an interview in which he would have been asked questions about his company's measures to combat forest fires on its concession land. Each year, forest fires are rampant on Sumatra and Kalimantan as farmers use slash-and-burn techniques to make way for further palm oil or pulp & paper expansion. Based on a World Bank report released in December 2015, the man-made forest fires and toxic haze cost Indonesia an estimated IDR 221 trillion (USD $16 billion or 1.9 percent of the country's gross domestic product) between June and October 2015 when more than 100,000 man-made forest fires destroyed some 2.6 million hectares of land.
Earlier, Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said certain bilateral collaborations between Indonesia and Singapore would be terminated while others became subject to a "substantial review" after NEA made efforts to prosecute Indonesians under the laws of Singapore.
This is an international issue because the smoke was generated in Indonesia and caused damage in other countries. Just because someone in government or the government does not want to be responsible does not mean that the international community will not take action. Because the government has issued a statement pf nonsupport; it is logical that the government would take on the burden of paying for the damages. Indonesian assets in other countries could be confiscated and sold at auction to pay for the damages. Do not just turn away and not address the problem; Indonesia should defend itself in Singapore courts to avoid increased losses.