Smoke gets in our eyes

haze(aerial view of burning in Indonesia– is it that difficult to pinpoint source? )

The common topic nowadays is again the perennial problem of haze.

Year in and year out, as punctual as the durian season, the haze problem surfaces without fail.  Year in and year out, we hear of politicians talking about it. We hear of ministers and officials getting together to find a solution; we hear of Indonesians blaming on Malaysian and Singaporean companies for the slash and burn methods they use to clear land; we hear of denials by the same companies; we hear of the need to establish an Asean initiative to find an end to the problem.

In the end, the haze appears again and again.

The politicians, like the boy who cries wolf, are fast losing credibility;  we the rakyat, like the farmers who initially believed the boy and rushed up the hill, are now skeptical, and are praying to Heaven for rain and to change wind direction to solve this problem.

Many people suffer. Some with certain illnesses will die an early death, even though we cannot quantify the number. While we take individual murder case seriously, these indirect deaths often go unreported, but rest assured, since the haze covers a big area, the impact on lives  is more serious than a single death from murder.

.haze3(view from top of Tropicana Mall Petaling Jaya)

What baffles simple minds like ours is why is it so difficult to catch the culprits who practice slash and burn method? Just charter a small plane and helicopter, and even from  a far you can pinpoint where are the sources and fires. You can then send in the ground people and  arrest or fine those in whose land that the fire rages.

Once a dozen or so are hauled up and punished,  it will serve as a deterrent to others..

Strict enforcement would end this once and for all.. Granted, some natural fires will still occur, but it would not be so widespread, and the fire fighters would not be so short-handed like the current situation. They would have a better chance to douse the natural fires.

Why should a seemingly easy task fail so miserably?

This has all to do with the attitude and corruption level of the ground enforcement. A Tidak Apa attitude coupled with certain kind of  payoffs probably would ensure the local enforcement to close an eye.

This attitude is further strengthened and emboldened by the rebuttals of senior ministers defending the haze.

One minister called on Singaporeans, who were at the brunt of this year’s haze initially,  not to whine like a small kid. Another minister chided Malaysians for not able to share sufferings.

This is typically a sign of what we called “small man syndrome”.  ‘Small’ in this context has nothing to do with the physical height of the person, but rather the mental attitude.

A small man would not like people  criticise him for any failure in which he is responsible. So by acting tough and talking tough, he tries to cover his inadequacies with the tough talk and act.  A leader like this is dangerous, since such person would show no humility and often is ruthless and has no consideration for others.

Unlike these ‘small men’, the President of Indonesia has apologised. He is big enough to acknowledge that Indonesia is responsible for the hazy situation.

But I would rather he puts more effort into solving this problem by going to the ground to get a first hand picture and perhaps organise a presidential task force to specifically hauling up the culprits.

Until then, we can only pray to the God and Heaven and hope for a reversal of wind direction and maybe some rainfall over the burning areas.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. klm
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 11:56:54

    If this is how Indonesian ministers behave towards Malaysia and Singapore, I wonder how Indonesia will behave in the future when it is rich and strong.

  2. Dr Hsu
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 12:22:05

    Klm
    I am not worried. With leaders and a tidak apa bereaucracy like this,it is difficult for them to achieve a first world status. The most they can go up is among the middle ranking countries. They can probably go a rung above us, since they have no discriminatory policies, but cannot become very rich and strong.

  3. Dr Hsu
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 12:39:04

    On another note, we also have a lot of these ‘small men’ in the Big Brother. I dont need to name them, you all know who they are..:)

  4. StevenT
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 15:15:35

    “Men are motivated by interest and not by law” – James Madison, Father of US Constitution.

    The solution to the haze issue is political as it requires the public in Malaysia and Singapore to explicitly voice out their dissatisfaction, i.e. campaign, rally etc. I’m sure the corporations have huge sums of capital in Malaysia and SG; in addition to residing in these countries. The government has many tools i.e. civil and criminal.

    With political will lacking, each government will just blame the neighbours when in fact, the richer the neighbour, the more able he is resolve this issue.

    Of course with billions of dollars at stake; even the general public will close a blind eye to the actual solutions. This is the NIMBY (Not in my backyard) attitude of the urban population.

  5. Simple Sense
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 07:30:12

    We have not done our best, we have not help ourselves, so God and heaven will have no pity on us. Imagine how Indonesia will feel if Malaysia and Singapore break diplomatic tie with Indonesia until it fixes the illegal burning and haze problem. When diplomatic approach does not yield positive result, then break diplomatic relationship will sure get international attention.
    The bottom line is most current time leaders have no leadership. No one comes close to statesman like LKY.

  6. Nick
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 15:22:53

    Here is my suggestion: All 3 neighbors get together and contribute a common fund and set up a fighting force to tackle fires, suggest US$ 10.0 Mn per country. This will enable the immediate recruitment of 300 workforce, trained to be forest fire-fighters. Equipped them with computers, satellite imagery machines, etc and a modern office to supervise the task and latest fire-fighting trucks needed to do the job. The heads of each country is answerable to their respective Governments. Start legislating that all Plantations Companies are required to construct ponds and reserve water to last even the drought months. Call upon each country to provide helicopters and air-planes that can be commandered to put out these fires when they break out. I believe strongly that if we all co-operate harmoniusly, we can all benefit and mitigate this perenial problem. Indonesia is a huge country and the bureaucrats sit in sunny Jakarta and have no clue what the haze is causing to its neighbors besides looking at CNN/BBC and media. This is a voidable problem and unless we get our act together, we will face this problem again and again like a broken record.

  7. Li Li Fa
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 22:06:42

    The haze had come and gone. Many are relieved. The blame game and finger pointing had stopped at least for this point of time. Just like the haze, will they happen again?

    I agree that the President of Indonesia did a magnaminous gesture in apologising for the haze that engulfed the neighbouring countries, but concrete action must follow after words and talk. There is no need to say who is a stronger or weaker nation, trying to flex muscles of political showmanship.

    Is there an avenue in the ASEAN family to address and solve this type of hazing problem?

    Does sending firemen to fight the fires every time it happens going to solve the problem permanently? Are ASEAN countres coming together to solve their common problem? Singapore has no vast areas of land to enjoy the luxury of open burning. Indonesia has. Malaysia has too, to a certain extent. But Malaysia has been educating its people and strict on enforcement on open burning. Do we expect to same from Indonesia?

    Do we need to resurrect MJ to sing us his EarthSong to convince us that we need to take care of Mother Earth?

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