September 13, 2019

Malaysian concessions at fault for fires and haze sealed

JAKARTA ( - A number of Malaysian palm oil companies have been sealed by the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry because of on-the-ground evidence of their failure to prevent forest and land fires in their concessions in West Kalimantan province.

This evidence highlights the fact that Malaysian companies at a certain level are also contributing to the haze in Indonesia, as well as performing the "service" of sending the haze into their own country.

“It’s not only Malaysian companies. Other companies that have failed to prevent forest and land fires in their concessions have also been sealed,” Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya told (Sep 13) at the ministry building.

These measures are not confined to West Kalimantan. In Sumatra’s Riau province, another Malaysian palm company palm company (PT API/KLK Bhd) frequently affected by fires has been also sealed by the ministry for failing to secure its concessions from such fires.

As reported by many media outlets, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad plans to send a letter to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo about the transboundary haze that has entered Malaysian territory.

The following photos, which are of relevance to the Malaysian Prime Minister, show fires in a palm oil concession owned by a Malaysian company (PT RKA/TDM Bhd) which was sealed yesterday (Sep 12). These fires most certainly contributed somewhat to the transboundary haze in Malaysia.

Objectivity essential

Minister Nurbaya asserted that the transboundary haze should be viewed objectively over the time period that it has occurred, including by looking at its levels of fluctuation. As an example, she pointed out that from 5-8 September no evidence of haze was detected.

After these dates, the situation with regard to the transboundary has become different. We don't reject facts, but we must be objective," she stressed while pointing out that as a neighboring country, it is not good for Malaysia to engage in polemic. 

“What's more, it was them who brought this into the public sphere, not me. This is very counterproductive in the midst of Indonesia's extraordinary efforts to overcome landscape fires since the beginning of the year,” she explained. 

“This is not a simple problem. It's not just a physical matter of extinguishing a fire. There are also some very complex social issues happening there,” the minister added. 

The photos below depict fires and haze in a Malaysian-owned palm oil concession operating in West Kalimantan. This company (PT SKS/IOI Group) was also sealed by the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry yesterday (Sep 12).

Ready to collaborate

The failure of a number of Malaysian companies to comply with Indonesian regulations on the prevention of forest and land fires means that the Malaysian government has some homework to do by reminding these companies that their operations in Indonesia must not cause fires and haze.

This situation, according to the Indonesian minister, confirms that the Malaysian government has a moral obligation to deal with Malaysian companies that have been proven to contribute to sending transboundary haze to Malaysia, by exposing their violations.

“We are ready to collaborate on this (with the Malaysian authorities) to expose violations committed by the Malaysian companies causing haze,” Minister Nurbaya affirmed.

In this way, Malaysian citizens will also come to understand that some Malaysian conglomerates are also responsible for the haze at certain levels and during certain periods due to fires in their concessions in Indonesia. 

This news report has only revealed two of a number of Malaysian companies that have contributed to the haze, thereby disrupting life and the economy of both their own country and Indonesia. 

More evidence of foreign companies implicated in the fires and haze will follow in subsequent news reports. This includes evidence on fires and haze from concessions controlled by Singaporean companies, as well as other international companies, which have also failed in terms of fire prevention.