Indonesian Environment Minister reprimands Singapore for comments

( - Indonesia's Minister of the Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya, has reminded her colleague, the Singaporean Minister of the Environment, that he should refrain from making too many comments about Indonesia with regard to land and forest fire issues.

The minister said that the Indonesian government had taken some major and substantial steps aimed at preventing land and forest fires this year and in the coming years, based on decisions made by the Indonesian government itself, rather than on complaints or pressure from any other country, including Singapore, even if input from such countries is welcome.

“We have been consistent in sticking to our part of the bargain, especially by attempting to prevent the recurrence of land and forest fires and by consistently enforcing the law. So, my question is - what has the Singaporean government done? I feel that they should focus on their own role,” the minister told on Saturday (Apr 16) in Jakarta, in reaction to a speech made by the Singaporean Minister of the Environment at a forum in Singapore on Friday (Apr 15).

The minister was quick to reassert her opinion that the Singaporean government would be better off working on its own part in haze-related issues. She said that she understood the predicament of the Singaporean authorities, as they had been bragging about their role in the situation to their own public, and now find themselves in a position where they need to back up their words with actions or risk losing credibility in the eyes of their own people.

“There is really no need to comment too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing. However, with all due respect to my Singaporean counterpart, what are they doing? And where has it got them?” asked the minister.

She added that President Joko Widodo’s administration had applied strict law enforcement against any company found to be negligent in fulfilling its obligations to handling land and forest fires that occur on their concessions, especially those companies headquartered in Singapore.

“This is just one example of how we are not shirking our responsibilities and are doing what is expected of us,” the minister reaffirmed while pointing out that, in her view, a good government is one which takes lots of action, not one which makes lots of comments, even more so when these comments pertain to other countries.

The minister went on to say that if a government merely relied on the comments of others in making decisions and formulating policy, major and substantial measures would be extremely difficult to pursue, let alone with any consistency.

“President Joko Widodo exemplifies this. Our president is never quick to make comments or pass judgment, but instead focuses on formulating policies aimed at protecting Indonesia’s forests and peat lands. I would like to take this opportunity to say that this shows we are doing our part,” the minister reiterated.

She was not finished there however: “Indonesia has its own ways and means of addressing its own problems. It comes down to the fact that only Indonesia understands Indonesian problems, including the capacity of its people’s social capital. The government is fully aware of the action that needs to be taken, in accordance with the Indonesian constitution, in the interests of its citizens.”

“We really appreciate the input provided to us by our Singaporean neighbors and cherish our bilateral partnership, but I would respectfully ask them to stop making so many comments, particularly when it comes to the fires and haze-related issues. We each have our own part to play and we should focus on carrying this out. We have already formulated some major polices on our own initiative which we are busy implementing,” the minister explained.

At the tail end of the interview with, the minister said that Indonesia comprises a large and complex ecosystem. She explained that the country was not just a small ecosystem or a small city, so the challenges faced there are obviously very different and require substantial policies for dealing with them in the framework of a massive ecosystem. These challenges extend to how fires and haze related issues can be effectively dealt with.

"The major policies we deliberate and enact are concerned with a major ecosystem in the form of the vast Indonesian archipelago. We don't exist in a small ecosystem. I really hope this is understood," the minister concluded.