Indonesian President Widodo pledges haze-free 2018

Indonesian President Widodo pledges haze-free 2018

Indonesian firefighters put out a fire in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra. Haze across much of Southeast Asia mostly comes from forest fires on Indonesia's western island of Sumatra, many of which are lit to clear land for plantations. (Photo: AFP/ABDUL QODIR)

JAKARTA: President Joko Widodo on Tuesday (Feb 6) told officials that he had given his word for 2018 to be a haze-free year to the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia.

“In 2015, every time I met the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, the complaint that would always be conveyed to me was about haze,” he said, according to a press statement from the Presidential Secretariat.

“The last time we met in India, the two prime ministers shook my hand (and said) 2018 hopefully will be like 2016 and 2017. I've told them that I guarantee (there will be no haze), so remember. I have told them, I guarantee, but if there is haze, where are we going to put our faces."

Indonesia is gearing up to host the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang this August and September, and the president called on officials to take strict sanctions against personnel who allow a compromise on haze-fighting efforts.

He also called on officials to continue intensive efforts in the prevention of land and forest fires, keeping the year haze-free and ensuring the Asian Games this year can proceed smoothly without any disruption.

“At that moment, do not let there be any smoke, or land and forest fires which will subsequently interfere with our image or even flights,” the president stated. “I repeat the rules of the game once again, if there are forest fires in your territories and it is not being handled properly, remove (the official in charge)!”

According to the statement, after reflecting upon his experience in the last two years, Widodo believes such rules are highly effective in mobilising personnel on the field. Its results can be seen in the decreasing number of hotspots in the past two years, he said, from 21,929 in 2015 to 3,915 and 2,567 in 2016 and 2017. 

The president acknowledged the progress that had been made in handling land and forest fires by the government and its staff in recent times, and also called on officers to possess what he called "field intelligence". 

Widodo made the comments while he led the National Coordination Meeting on Forest and Land Fire Control for 2018. The event was held at the State Palace and attended by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, several regional heads, as well as police and military officials.

Source: CNA/mz

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