JAKARTA — Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said that Jakarta had earlier rejected Singapore’s offers of assistance to combat the transboundary haze crisis in the region because it was concerned that the city state would claim credit for solving the problem, even while the officials were worried about the rapidly deteriorating situation.
“The (Indonesian) government is not closing ourselves off to assistance. But if we are assisted, the government does not want them (Singapore) to claim the credit. It is the government that is working hard to resolve (this smog disaster) … So we do not want it to reach the point of them claiming credit for it,” Mr Anung told CNN Indonesia yesterday (Oct 7).
According to Indonesian media reports, President Joko Widodo held an unscheduled closed-door meeting yesterday to discuss the haze problem, which has worsened this week.
Jakarta today asked for help from Singapore, Russia, Malaysia and Japan to put out forest fires that have caused choking smoke to drift across South-east Asia, after having turned down several offers of foreign assistance from other countries, particularly Singapore and Malaysia, which have also been affected by haze since the crisis began last month.
Minister of Forestry and Environment Siti Nurbaya Bakar said yesterday that the government had opened up to the possibility of accepting international assistance as the situation was getting worse.
Dr Siti Nurbaya explained that as the fires spread and difficulty of putting them out increased, Indonesia would need support from abroad to provide equipment that is capable of providing water capacity and stronger volume pressure. “It seems that there is a need to receive support whether from Singapore, Russia, Austria, and others,” said the minister at the Presidential Palace Complex yesterday. She added that water bombing and artificial rain would be the most effective and in this regard, Indonesia required more aircraft at its disposal
This was despite Dr Siti Nurbaya stating earlier that Indonesia did not require any assistance from Singapore as it has more than enough aircraft.
Mr Anung stressed yesterday that while the government had not yet decided to declare the smog that is blanketing Sumatra and Kalimantan as a national disaster, it was very concerned about the problem. He said Mr Widodo was actively monitoring the situation, especially through social media, including direct view content uploaded by the community.
“Earlier we showed this (information from social media) to the President. The President knows everything, because we want the President to get information that is as complete as possible to the events that happened,” the Cabinet Secretary highlighted.
Mr Widodo planned to go to a number of areas affected by the haze but he has not been able to do so as the air quality and visibility worsened.