KUALA LUMPUR: Companies found to be responsible for haze in the region may be penalised upon entering the Malaysian market, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said on Tuesday (Sep 24), as the monsoon transition provided a respite from the choking haze.
“There was a suggestion that we enact the Transboundary Haze Act where anyone identified as among parties that caused forest fires be subjected to a penalty if they come to Malaysia,” he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times. He did not elaborate further.
Malaysia has been on the receiving end of cross-border haze from Indonesia since August, which forced schools to be closed and flights to be cancelled.
The haze also led to a diplomatic incident between the two countries, with Malaysia sending a diplomatic note to Indonesia to urge prompt action over the fires, while Indonesia said some of the fires in the archipelago were on palm plantations operated by Malaysian-owned companies.
Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia may introduce a law to compel its companies to put out fires on land they operate abroad.
“If we find that they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law which will make them responsible for fires in their property, even if it’s outside of Malaysia,” he said.
Mdm Yeo Bee Yin, the minister in charge of the environment, said last Thursday that her ministry would seek the advice of the attorney-general on drafting the Transboundary Haze Act to handle the haze problem.
An environmental law expert had suggested for the government to study the United States’ extraterritorial legislation known as Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) 1977 when drafting its proposed Transboundary Haze Act.
Dr Hanim Kamaruddin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia told Bernama that the FCPA was the first to introduce corporate liability, responsibility for third parties and extraterritoriality for corruption offences. This means that any US-based company and person can be held criminally and civilly responsible for corruption offences committed abroad.
“Hence, the proposed Transboundary Haze Act should also have provisions with a similar concept in order to tackle transboundary haze pollution crime,” she said.
In 2014, Singapore passed the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act to go after companies that started fires or let their concessions burn, and contributed to haze that blanketed Singapore and other parts of the region.
HAZE SITUATION IMPROVES IN MALAYSIA
Last week, the Malaysian Meteorological Department had predicted that the haze situation would improve when the monsoon transition begins on Tuesday.
As of 5pm on Tuesday, only eight monitoring stations in Peninsular Malaysia reported unhealthy air, with Johan Setia in Klang topping the chart with an Air Pollutant Index (API) of 161.
Sarawak, which has been badly hit by haze originating from fires in Kalimantan, recorded moderate air quality.
In Sri Aman, air quality improved from last Friday's 402 (hazardous) to 81 (moderate).