Govt may penalise companies on haze

We may have to pass a law which will make them responsible for fires in their property even if it is outside Malaysia, says Dr Mahathir


THE federal government is considering a law that forces companies to tackle fires on their estates as the haze continues to worsen.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government would call on Malaysian companies to act and put out the fires.

“If 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 is outside Malaysia,” he told reporters after launching the New Malaysia Foreign Policy Framework in Putrajaya yesterday.

Indonesia’s Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar last week said some fires in Indonesia had been spotted on palm oil plantations operated by four Malaysian companies’ subsidiaries — Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK), Sime Darby Plantation Bhd, IOI Corp Bhd and TDM Bhd.

KLK and TDM have since confirmed that land plots belonging to their Indonesian subsidiaries have been sealed off.

IOI Corp and Sime Darby Plantation, however, denied that their estates were shut by local authorities as small fires on their lands had been quickly contained.

Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador, who was also present at the launch, said if the law is put in place, the police will not hesitate to act.

Dr Mahathir said Malaysia has taken measures to tackle the haze effects like cloud seeding, ‘confining’ people in houses and closing schools, but there is also a need to find new ways to reduce the haze.

“Cloud seeding is one of them but maybe we also need to spray water in certain places to bring down the amount of haze,” he said.

On claims by Indonesia that the haze came from Malaysia, Dr Mahathir said: “That is why we should publish a map showing satellite pictures of the hotspots.”

He added that he has yet to write any letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin had previously said Dr Mahathir would be sending a letter on the haze situation to the Indonesian president soon.

The transboundary haze from Kalimantan, Indonesia, has to date forced a total of 1,484 schools in seven states to close, affecting over one million students.

The Education Ministry will provide updates from time to time.

Asked whether there is a need to close all schools up to Friday due to the haze, Dr Mahathir said it cannot be done because the Air Pollutant Index differs according to location.

“We have to see the severity of the haze. It is not the same throughout the country,” he said.