Haze: What Raffles would have done

In Indonesia on 24/06/2013 at 4:40 am

“Mr Shanmugam reiterated Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s position that it is not productive to trade accusations”, CNA reported. He was being asked about

— the recent comments of Indonesian Minister Agung Laksono chiding Singapore for behaving “like a child”; and

— Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa remarks that the Indonesian government would not issue an apology to Singapore for the haze crisis.

Bit rich this, given that it was our very own VivianB who, rightly, started the public naming and shaming of the Indonesian govt: in a strongly-worded statement on Facebook that “no country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans’ health and wellbeing”, in the early hours of 20th June.

The Indonesian govt lost face, as his remarks were reported in the West where the govt has been trying to show its green face with various announced policies (like reserving land as jungle), and where the govt is trying to investors to think of Indonesia as a BRICS nation (“I” for India and Indonesia, not juz India).

The govt started bitching against S’pore, but has done something (witness the clear skies on Saturday evening, Sunday, and so far today*) following VivianB’s, Shan’s and PM’s comments about Indon non-actions:

— At a late-night emergency meeting on 20th June , President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered disaster officials to “immediately mobilise all the country’s resources” to extinguish the fires on Sumatra island that have created vast palls of smoke. Why so late? Firefighters on the ground have struggled to put out the blazes, which are burning under the surface of the peat, for at least two weeks..

— Indonesia announced it has earmarked around 200 billion rupiah (US$20 million) to handle the disaster. No budget, before S’pore shamed Indonesia?

— Indonesia’s national disaster agency said that two helicopters with cloud-seeding equipment were sent early Friday from Jakarta and Borneo island to Riau province, where hundreds of hectares (acres) of carbon-rich peatland are ablaze. Again why so late?

— It  said water-bombing helicopters could be dispatched, although gave no timeframe. [Update

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s national disaster agency, said they had “carried out 14 water-bombings, dropping a total of 7,000 litres (1,820 gallons) of water onto the fires”.

He added that altogether, four helicopters had been deployed for water-bombing operations while two planes were conducting cloud-seeding, AFP news agency reported.

However, Indonesian disaster agency official Agus Wibowo told AFP that two cloud-seeding attempts tried in Riau province over the weekend were not successful.— BBC report]

— Two S’pore based companies controlled by Indonesians were named by the Indonesian authorities as partly responsible for the fires. They denied the name calling. Anyway, these are own goals because the owners are Indonesian, and the burning is in Indonesia. So why no action leh?

All in all, has VivianB’s screams of “Rape!”, got the Indonesian govt embarrassed enough to do something?

And the pressure continues:

— S’pore, by getting M’sia*** to agree to get the haze issue on the agenda at the coming Asean meeting in Brunei, has forced the Indons to talk about the issue in front of other Asean countries.

— S’pore is also rightly threatening to raise the cry of “Rape!” in other int’l public forums.

Gd for VivianB and gd for PM? No more “behind closed doors meetings” like what Auntie says WP MPs do with the S’pore govt to get things done? To be fair, even WP has now learnt that “closed doors” is for sex only.

Raffles must be laughing in his mansion in heaven. When he was ruling Java (see Raffles and the British Invasion of Java and here), he sent in the army to teach the sultans of Palembang (in Sumatra) and Yogyakarta (in Java) a lesson. The former had killed a few Europeans, while the latter was two-timing the British. The British stormed and looted the sultans’ palaces, and appointed new sultans. The new sultans and all the other sultans realised that the British were unruly, irrational and brutal, like children, and decided to behave. When the Dutch returned, they behaved like the British, seeing that the sultans were cowed by such thuggish behaviour. Being nice, didn’t pay, it seemed.

So the only way to get anything done by the Indonesian govt is to threaten disproportionate “punishment” if ministers are caught two-timing? Today, sending in the army is not acceptable behaviour (except for the hegemon and the wannabe hegemon). But maybe naming and shaming ministers, who value face (especially from ang mohs), is acceptable, and, more importantly, effective: juz as force* was in the 19th century, as Raffles showed.

The Indonesia govt and ruling elite want Indonesia to be perceived as a major player on the int’l stage. Showing that ministers are incompetent and dishonest affects the perception. Here’s how Shan showed up the incompetency or mendacity of an Indon minister More pls, Shan.

Raffles (and then the Dutch) “children” physically lashed the sultans until they cried “Uncle”***, and “behaved”; so shouldn’t S’pore lash the ministers verbally, until they stop “smoking” us?


*And it’s peace and quiet on Facebook as the anti-govt activists (esp those belonging to minor opposition parties) think of new reasons to bitch against the govt. Don’t worry guys. Yr silence only only shows yr lack of imagination.

**And  during Confrontation, a lot more Indon soldiers were killed than the Commonwealth, M’sian and S’porean (if any) soldiers defending M’sia and S’pore. Many were killed in Kalimantan by the SAS and Gurkhas. While the Indonesian elite forces were playing at being warriors, the SAS and Gurkhas attacked them when they tot they were safe in Indonesian territory. The Indonesian soldiers and ministers tot that only they were entitled to trespass. The SAS and Gurkhas tot otherwise.

*** TOC reported yesterday on FB, “What is seen from above for the region. Singapore is spared from much of the haze as more of it diverts towards north of Malaysia.”

  1. […] – The Kent Ridge Common: Profiteers are heroes – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Haze: What Raffles would have done – Zit Seng’s Superwall: Haze Reveals a Short-Sighted Government – Canvasing […]

  2. The only way to permanently stop the slash and burn is to devise something so that the plantation owner can earn from selling the vegetation. Otherwise the haze will continue.

  3. Indonesians also need to survive you know.
    So the ‘delay’ should be intentional – let the burning be a huge one for a few days, then start telling them to slow down a bit for a few days. Likely that another huge fire will happened soon. And once noises heard, pretend to scold a bit then slow down the fire.’

    SOmehow, the lands need to be cleared before the new season.
    Maybe this approach is passable & more accepted to all, including singaporeans.
    Suffer a few days, then ok. then again, then ok…

    Our only hope is that the winds blow north (our north) all the times but sorry la Muar.

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