Current Affairs – Indonesian Smog

Indonesia.

Right now, it is synonymous with a lot of unpleasant things and words in my mind. That is the result of some of the idiotic and insensitive things said by their so-called leaders in government, and my annoyance towards an annual problem that has gone for almost 20 years since 1994. I really have a lot to say in response to those idiotic swines, so forgive me for not being able to keep it short.

First of all, I have to say I often felt a pang of guilt for not making any donations when natural disasters struck Indonesia. Now I felt “vindicated” for my decision because Minister Agung Laksono from Indonesia is saying that it can fend for itself and deal with it from its own national budget unless it’s more than a million dollars. Frankly, I can’t even made anything close to 1/20th of a million dollars every year so I should not feel any guilt for not giving. Furthermore, Mr Laksono expects us to not complain because this accursed smog originating from Sumatra is the work of nature. I take it that his country is made of sterner stuff and they will suck it all up when natural disasters struck. If Indonesia see less donations for any future natural calamities, I fully expect Mr Laksono to obtain the shortfall from the national budget.

The same minister even called us children and chided us for protesting about the smog. He seems to even suggest we should be thankful for our fresh air, as if Indonesia supplied it free to us. I wouldn’t go into the details to educate this moron about the relationship between the Earth’s supply of oxygen and plankton, but whatever his political agenda was, his words will do nothing to achieve them. Be it the extradition of corrupted officials of former regimes or tax-evading businessmen, or even ratifying border treaties, it is my considered opinion that Singapore should not bow to such blackmail regardless we are in the wrong or not. Two wrongs won’t make a right and this is simply environmental terrorism. For Indonesia to allow its own people to suffer even more in its attempt to force us to capitulate on those issues tells us a lot about the priorities (or the lack thereof) of their current political leaders. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that Indonesia, which is almost as populous as the United States, failed to reach greater heights due to the lack of vision of its leaders. It definitely deserved better.

As if one moronic minister isn’t good enough to demonstrate the wrong priorities of the Indonesian government, there is also a Hadi Daryanto who tried to deflect the issue by saying that Singaporean and Malaysian companies are also responsible. This useless chap isn’t even a minister to begin with and is just a secretary in the forestry ministry. To put it in analogy, what good is accusing your neighbours of arson when the fires rage in your own house unabated? Regardless whether the allegations are true, what needs to be done is to put out the fire. I am quite sure when I am already feeling quite miserable and angry where I am, then the people at “ground zero” – regardless whether they may or may not be guilty of setting the very fires that brought this calamity upon themselves – are having it even worse. Strangely, even when I can remind myself of this, and finally set aside the hatred and anger I have felt in the past three days, Mr Daryanto is incapable of coming to the same conclusion. He even asked us to pray for rain, which I will do not only for our own sake, but for the people in Sumatra. It really says a lot about the caliber of some of those in the Indonesian government!

That being said, I am rather curious whether the management of those Singapore-based companies in Sumatra allegedly responsible for this man-made disaster are Singaporeans or Indonesians. It is my considered opinion that any company accused and found guilty should also end the employment of their regional managers responsible to show no tolerance to such nonsense. I sincerely hope that the minister in-charge of the Indonesian labour ministry will not be unhappy when some of his fellow countrymen lose their jobs. After all, companies do have their corporate image and name to maintain and they should justifiably take swift action according to the feedback of the Indonesian government! On top of which, I would expect some concrete action from Indonesia itself, to put these criminals on trial and put them away in the darkest jails in Indonesia for the longest time. Hopefully, no one will make a mockery of their country’s laws and also its resolve in tackling the issue by making a scapegoat out of some poor farmers while the real culprits go scot-free.

If we think that there are just two morons in the high level of Indonesian government, we can’t be more mistaken. Even their own foreign minister joined the fray to convince us just how grossly incompetent and lacking in direction the Indonesian leadership is. Mr Marty McFly Natalegawa says Indonesia will not be apologising to Singapore for the haze pollution. Well, Mr Marty… I personally certainly don’t want any of your stinking apology. I just want your country to fix the problem. Which part of that is so difficult to understand, because it appears that even your esteemed colleague Mr Zulkifli Hasan from the forestry ministry was more sensible in his response. If I heard it correctly on the news, Mr Hasan asked for patience because Indonesia is doing whatever it could to put an end of this problem!

From the looks of it, we will probably have to live with this nonsense for many years to come. Indonesia will certainly be the least of my choice as a location for holiday, even though I understand that punishing its people will not bring about any change in the attitude of its retarded leaders and officials. Nevertheless, we must take collective action against any Singapore based companies which have been named as partly responsible for this. Even when I personally do not think boycotts will work, I will start to avoid buying or using products and services from not only the companies named but also their partners. That is perhaps the best we could do right now because I doubt there’s much Singapore’s government can do against them in spite of all the strong words. After all, legislation must first be in place before judicial action can be taken and I am unaware or ignorant of any of such laws in place. It is my personal opinion that the government should seriously consider environment protection laws to punish such companies. I am quite sure when we have laws to punish even individuals who consume narcotics overseas, we can have laws to deal with companies committing environmental offences overseas.

Next, Singapore should re-evaluate our energy dependency on Indonesia since it supplies the natural gas used to generate electricity in this country. If going nuclear is the only way to go, I am even willing to bear all the associated risks of having a nuclear reactor. Energy is a strategic resource and having just one source of energy supply can be fatal. Imagine Indonesia turning off the supply of gas which brings our power plants to a halt. Just how much damage would that be to our global reputation and a safe haven for investments and business? There is no point to even bring Indonesia to justice in an International Court and obtain compensation when the damage has been done.

Even though there is not much the government can do at the national level other than ensuring a supply of masks since this problem is likely to be ongoing annually, I am in the opinion that the reaction of the government has been too slow. For comparison, the Human Resource department of my employer announced that N95 masks are being flown in from Hong Kong at the company’s expense and they will be distributed by Friday to every employee. I would have expected the government with the highest paid ministers in the world to not only have more foresight, but also be more proactive than my HR colleagues. In other words, the plans to bring in more masks should have kicked in by Thursday after the PSI hit 321 on Wednesday evening, so N95 masks would have been readily available by the weekend. That said, I am glad that the government did take action and is proud of the Singapore Armed Forces in playing a part to increase the availability of N95 masks the public. Note, I am not asking the government to deliver the masks free to my home. I am just asking for them to be readily available so I can buy them when I needed them!

On top of that, the Singapore government should perhaps review some of its contingency plans, such as reviewing its ‘Total Defense’ policies. Since we already have plans in place to ensure the supply of basic foodstuffs and to prevent profiteering in the event of war (as a reaction to our forebears’ experience during World War II), the plans should also be revised to cover the outbreak of diseases and ecological / environmental disasters. It is clear that some unscrupulous people have profiteered from the current smog crisis by jacking up the prices of N95 masks, and there is no reason to believe that the same wouldn’t happen to other medical supplies during epidemics. If our leaders have more sense than their counterparts in the Indonesian government, they should be aware disease, and ecological / environmental disasters can destroy our country too.

Let this crisis strengthen our people and make us more united as one nation. I do hope the government learn some valuable lesson from this instead of portraying the impression of being caught with their pants down whenever this smog problem gets worst. Before I end, I want to point out that this thrice-damned “haze” should be more aptly called smog. The current, unfortunate and politically-correct misnomer is used thanks to our local media which only presents the “right” news with the “right” choice of words. When some Indonesian leaders do not believe in playing nice, there is no reason why we should mince our words. Let’s us call a spade for what it is.

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