SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore appealed to Indonesia on Wednesday for information on companies suspected of causing cross-border pollution, saying stopping smoke from fires set by plantation firms was not an issue of “sovereignty”.
Fires in Indonesia, often set in the dry season by companies clearing land for plantations, causes an annual “haze” crisis over large parts of the region. Indonesia has often promised action but the problem persists.
Singapore passed a cross-border haze act in 2014, making those who cause haze both criminally and civilly liable, but it has been having trouble getting information.
“Singapore has repeatedly asked for the information on companies suspected of illegal burning in Indonesia from the relevant Indonesian authorities. We have yet to receive any information,” Singapore’s ministry of environment and water resources said in a statement.
Indonesia’s environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said this week Singapore could not “tread on the realm of law that was under Indonesia”, and Singapore “did not respect Indonesia”, media reported.
Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla was also quoted as saying that Indonesia would not allow Singapore to prosecute its citizens over forest fires that blanketed the region in toxic smoke.
Singapore said its law complied with international law to “deter and prosecute entities that are responsible for transboundary haze pollution in Singapore, whether Singaporean or foreign, as well as persons holding positions of responsibility in these entities”.
“It is not directed at any individual nor company based on nationality. This is therefore not an issue of sovereignty or national dignity,” the ministry said.
Singapore’s National Environment Agency had summoned the director of Indonesian company suspected of pollution but he failed to turn up for an interview.
Last month, the agency got a court warrant to secure his attendance when he next enters Singapore.
Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Robert Birsel