Firms refute illegal burning allegations

KUALA LUMPUR: Three Malaysian plantation companies refuted allegations that they are involved in illegal burning of forest and peat lands in Riau Province, Indonesia, which is causing the current haze situation.

Sime Darby Bhd, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK) and TH Plantations Bhd have each issued statements yesterday, refuting allegations of involvement in open burning activities in Indonesia and thereby causing widespread haze which is enveloping Sumatra, part of Malaysia and Singapore.

Last Saturday, Indonesian Environment Ministry had named eight companies that are being investigated for contributing to the haze by scorching their land in Riau and Jambi.

Another 14 companies are also being investigated for burning, but have not been named yet.

Meanwhile, Bernama quoted Association Plantation Investors of Malaysia in Indonesia (Apimi) as saying that Malaysian companies are not at fault in clearing land in Indonesia and causing fire. 

Apimi executive secretary Nor Hazlan Abdul Mutalib said open burning in oil palm plantations owned by Malaysian companies was carried out by local smallholders in the land allocated to them.

Yudhoyono apologises to Msia and Spore on haze

JAKARTA: Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has apologised to Malaysia and Singapore over the haze emanating from forest and peatland fires in Sumatra, which has affected air quality in the two countries.

"As the president, I apologise for what has happened and  hope for understanding from our friends in Singapore and  Malaysia," he told a news conference at the president's office here Monday evening.

"For sure, what has taken place is not on purpose," he  said.

Yudhoyono said at the moment, the areas affected by fires  in Jambi, Bengkulu and Riau had been declared as districts under disaster emergency and the central government had  deployed maximum manpower to fight the calamity.

He said Indonesia was fully responsible for overcoming the  problem and was confident that this would be done soon.

Yudhoyono pledged that Indonesia would put out every  spot of fire burning in Indonesian forests by carrying cloud  seeding apart from mobilising fire-fighting personnel on land  including from the armed forces.

At the news conference, the Indonesian President also  ticked off several government officials of the republic for mentioning the names of plantation companies believed to  have started the fires which he said should not have been divulged.

"From what I monitor daily, there were statements made  by some officials which according to me should not have been  delivered as such," he said. He said the companies concerned involved had not been  determined and government officials should refrain from issuing such statements.

"Even if the companies were negligent, it is not necessary  to name them...or the fact that they are owned by our neighbouring countries. What is more important now is to focus on overcoming the fire disaster that has dragged on for a week," he said. -- Bernama