It’s little wonder that among the Asean 10 in ratifying the Asean Transboundary Haze Treaty, Indonesia alone has refused to put pen to the signature block of the pact.
Indonesia has been the region’s biggest and most dangerous polluter. Year in, year out, for decades, its irresponsible burnings of the padi fields and cleared jungle areas have sent carcinogenic smoke across to Malaysia (including Sarawak) and Singapore during the southwest monsoon period, which is usually from May to September.
Professor Dr Azizan Abu Samah of Universiti Malaya said that Indonesia could ameliorate the haze hazard for Malaysia if it manages its burning season in February rather than October, as by then (February) the northeast monsoon winds will start to blow across Malaysia towards the southwest.
While it’s not for me to question a university professor of geography, I think the professor’s suggestion of February could be a wee late, though not adverse to his suggestion for improving the Indonesian-created environmental situation for us. I would recommend anytime from December to March.
The monsoon periods for Malaysia are the SW monsoon (May to September) and NE monsoon (November to March) – however, the prevailing winds don’t just start promptly on those months as if there is an ON/OFF or rather FWD/RVR switch. There would inevitably be some lag and overlap, the latter known as the convergence of the trade winds.
The in-between months of the two monsoon periods will see the Inter-Convergence Zone (ITCZ) crossing Malaysia as it follows the sun, which would be southwards (theoretically) in October and northwards in April. The ITCZ is a atmospheric band of convergence marking where the NE and SE trade winds meet, giving rise to some local thunderstorm activities where the ITCZ straddles Malaysia as it slowly (very slowly) crosses our country, either southwards or northwards.
The NE monsoon means the prevailing winds would be blowing down from the northeast, that is, from the Arctic across China, Vietnam, and picking up moisture from the South China Sea before they cross Malaysia towards Sumatra (in the case of the peninsula) or Kalimantan (in the case of Sarawak.
If Indonesia makes an effort to manage its agricultural burnings during the correct period of the prevailing winds, which thus far it has irresponsibly failed to do so as a good regional neighbour, it would greatly relieve us from the carcinogenic hazards.
Recently, when President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono of Indonesia attended a regional conference he showed his anxiety over his nation’s poor global citizenship - he openly expressed his hope none of the neighbouring countries would raise again the issue of smoke haze originating from Sumatra and Kalimantan. Then he made a brash statement in August this year that he wanted all the fires out by 2nd September.
So it was said (by him), and being Indonesia, so it was not done (by him). Bapak cakap ta'serupa bikin!
Most amazingly, Rubaya Thalib, the Indonesian consul-general in Kuching had the bloody brazen nerve to scream at Malaysians, telling them not to play the blame game. He said: "If everyone is playing the blame game now, the problem will not be solved. It will continue to happen. The problem now is that there is a need to find a comprehensive permanent solution to the matter."
What sort of solution has he offered for a problem caused by his country for decades? Buggerall!
The fact is that in those areas responsible for the burning, there is little enforcement activities because of massive corruption by the regional authorities. Indonesia must be held accountable regardless of whether the parties directly involved in the burning are Malaysian owned plantations in Indonesia. The enforcement agencies are not Malaysian owned, and they have failed 'due diligence' in preventing local hazardous activities that cause health problems to neighbouring countries.
The Indonesian government has shown a lack of will or even wilful ignoring of a hazard that affects principally its neighbours.
I believe that further talks with Indonesia will not solve the problem one iota.
As we don’t expect the Indonesian to do the needful and the responsible, we should not waste efforts by insisting on talks or discussions – the meaningful-ness of such useless musyawarat has long disappeared. Nor should we demand to see bullsh*t plans as if somehow Indonesia may miraculously have. There is none.
Since Indonesia has refused to do the responsible neighbourly bit by signing the Asean Transboundary Haze Treaty, it’s time for Malaysia (and even Singapore - perhaps jointly with us) to take Indonesia to the World Court for serious compensation and a court order to instruct that country to cease and desist (with hugh penalties to be levied) or manage its burning activities responsibly, without harming the people of its neighbours.
Will Malaysia have the ‘burning’ desire and the ‘fire’ (or balls) to do that, or will our cabinet indulge in another craven game of ‘smoke’ and mirrors to protect Abang Besar?