Hazy Pekanbaru hosts Asean meeting, rallies dispersed

EoF News / 13 October 2006

Pekanbaru (EoF News) – Thick smog blanketing Pekanbaru of Riau capital Friday amid five ASEAN environmental ministers’ meeting to solve deteriorating haze problem. Riau Police office dispersed rallies staged by conservationist NGOs outside a hotel where delegates of the meeting stay.  Police dismissed forcefully the protesters mostly from Walhi Riau and Jikalahari NGOs before the ministers passed them.

Sources said Head of Riau Police Brigadier General Ito Sumardi angrily dismissed the rallies. The protesters urged Malaysia and Singapore to hold responsibility for illegal logging occurred in Riau forests and to ban on illegal timber coming into the both countries. The police did not allow the protesters to continue the rallies after taking a break for Friday praying.    The Asean environmental ministers meeting on haze commenced Friday afternoon which delayed for five hours as some delegates could not arrive in Pekanbaru in the morning.

The meeting take places soon after apologize uttered by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Indonesian
people as well as Malaysia and Singapore countries for inconvenience caused by the haze. 

*Crash Image* 

Riau government spokesperson Surya Maulana told the press that the convention will be held in Gedung Daerah building, in the Governor’s office, Riauterkini.com reported. Forest and land fires worsen in Sumatra and Kalimantan causing thick haze covering most parts of the two islands and spilling over neighboring countries, Malaysia and Singapore.
The two countries urged Indonesia to tackle the problem as complaint widespread among their public. Haze plunged air quality into its worst point in haze-affected countries, degraded human’s health as well as ecology, and inflicted loss to the business. Singapore proposed to host the meeting but Indonesia’s suggestion to hold the event in Pekanbaru were finally accepted by the countries involved in the specific convention.
Meanwhile, Sinar Harapan daily reported that major parties in House of Representatives –Golkar and PDI Perjuangan-- said ratification for Transboundary Haze Pollution Agreement should be conducted cautiously due to a need for comprehensive ASEAN environmental agreement, not merely on haze issue. Sonny Keraf, a parliamentarian from PDIP party, said the government should endorse companies to involve in tackling forest fires. “So there should be law enforcement, beside real action by setting up an ad hoc team {for forest and land fires),” he said as quoted by Sinar Harapan as saying.
The government and parliament (DPR) are criticized over blaming for each other in responding to haze issue. DPR said the government has no concept in solving haze. While, the government blasted parliament for dragging its feet to ratify the ASEAN haze agreement. “It should have not happened if both sides think objectively to solve the haze issue,” said Fitrian Ardiansyah, forest rehabilitation coordinator of World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, in Jakarta Wednesday. Fitrian said unless Indonesia ratifies the agreement, ASEAN countries would not be able to assist the haze problem as well as it will tarnish its reputation among the region’s countries.