Malaysian PM to write to Indonesia's leader as row over haze flares

Facebook screengrab Yeo Bee Yin Siti Nurbaya Bakar

Facebook screengrab Yeo Bee Yin Siti Nurbaya Bakar

The fires in Indonesia have sent toxic smoke floating over Malaysia, triggering a diplomatic row.

He was responding to Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, who said Malaysia had sent a protest letter accusing Indonesia of causing haze in Malaysia.

Malaysia has denied pointing fingers at Jakarta over the current haze problem, instead saying that it is offering assistance in tackling forest fires in several provinces in Indonesia.

Smog caused by forest and land fires continues to haunt some regions in Indonesia and neighboring countries as the unhealthy air quality has put a halt to school and outdoor activities and affected the health of thousands.

"Really, the smoke entering Malaysia, to Kuala Lumpur, it came from Sarawak, then from Peninsular Malaysia, and also some from West Kalimantan".

The Indonesian government has said it has sealed off plantations operated by at least 30 companies and brought criminal charges against four of them. Sukses Karya Sawit, Rafi Kamajaya Abadi and Adei Plantation and Industry could not be reached.

As proof, she attached several screenshots from a forest and land fire monitoring app of Indonesia created by its National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN). "Most importantly, the forest fires must be extinguished as soon as possible", she said.

Forest fires have become an nearly annual occurence in Indonesia, especially in dry years, and Indonesia's neighbors have complained of the thick, choking haze wafting in, raising concern about health and the impact on tourism.

Malaysia's Selangor state, which encircles Kuala Lumpur, shut 29 schools, on Friday, with orders to close more schools if the API level exceeds 200 - a level considered to be "very unhealthy".

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Heavy haze is a serious problem every year on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

She said based on the report from the Indonesian Meteorological, Climatological, and Geophysical Agency, smoke or haze from the fire in Kalimantan was detected to have crossed into Malaysia for only one hour on Sept 8.

She also claimed that wind direction meant the haze could not be from Sarawak.

She even criticised our government for not being objective when providing an explanation to fellow Malaysians!

"Let the data speak for itself", she said in a Facebook post, indicating figures from the ASEAN centre which showed only a handful of hotspots in Malaysia compared to the hundreds in Indonesia.

This follows research conducted by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) that shows over 474 hotspots in Kalimantan and 387 hotspots in Sumatera, in comparison to Malaysia's 7 hotspots.

Bakar said she was not seeking to look for excuses but did not "have time for polemics" and would rather work on putting out fires that she said covered a "huge" area.

It said 37 helicopters have dropped almost 240 million litres (roughly eight billion fluid ounces) of water and more than 160,000 kilogrammes (352,739 pounds) of salt for cloud seeding as part of the firefighting efforts.

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