Indonesia reviewing cooperation with Singapore in environment, forestry matters: Report

All procedures concerning planned bilateral collaborations in environment and forestry matters with Singapore have reportedly been put on hold.
Chandni Vatvani, Channel NewsAsia 15 May 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesia is reportedly reviewing all existing, planned and future bilateral cooperation in environment and forestry matters with Singapore.

In a report by environmental news website on Saturday (May 14), Indonesian Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya said she was leading the review process herself, and that the review was a substantial step that needed to be taken.

She added that there was a set of clear and measured criteria for the review process, and that this could see some existing bilateral collaborations terminated.

The minister spoke to on Thursday, after meeting with government officials in her office.

“We are looking at these bilateral collaborations in terms of substance. If it comes down to breaking off any existing bilateral collaborations, this would be the logical consequence of a substance-based review process,” the minister told

She was quoted as saying that the bilateral collaborations up for review would even include projects concerning haze and forest fire-related issues. Currently, all procedures with respect to planned bilateral collaborations have reportedly been put on hold.

Dr Nurbaya said she had already drafted a letter to be sent to a number of local governments, asking them to refrain from any direct bilateral cooperation with Singapore, especially with regard to issues related to haze and forest fires.

“Once again, this also forms part of the review process for all bilateral collaborations in the field of the environment and forestry with Singapore,” the minister told

The minister stated that the review process was part of a set of measures being undertaken by Indonesia alone, and it was not a joint process with Singapore.

“We are only going to inform Singapore at a later stage, of the existing bilateral collaborations that are to be terminated, as well as those planned collaborations which will not go ahead. Basically, we only feel obliged to notify them (the Singapore Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources) of our decisions,” the minister was quoted as saying.

Her comments came after Singapore’s National Environment Agency last week issued a court warrant in an attempt to question the director of one of the Indonesian firms linked to illegal forest fires that caused the haze last year.

The director did not attend the interview and an Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman said it lodged a protest against Singapore’s actions. However, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs later labelled the comments "puzzling", saying no such protest was received at its embassy in Jakarta.

Singapore has also put in a request to the Indonesian government for data and information on companies associated with and involved in last year’s forest fires, which caused last year's prolonged haze spell.

According to, Dr Nurbaya said her ministry would continue to uphold local laws. It will impose suspensions or revocations for concessions which violate rules and take court action where needed, she stated.

“We uphold the law in an independent manner based on Indonesia’s own laws and regulations. We certainly don’t rely on data and information derived from other countries as the basis for our legal processes," Dr Nurbaya said.

"We are not looking for a scapegoat for not enforcing the law. The objective of our law enforcement measures is to create conditions which enable the prevention of any recurrence of land and forest fires this year and any other year in the future,” the minister was quoted as saying.

- CNA/ek

RI-Singapore diplomatic spat continues over haze
Hans Nicholas Jong and Tama Salim The Jakarta Post 16 May 16;

Indonesia has rejected claims by the Singapore government that the latter did not receive an official complaint over plan to prosecute Indonesian businessmen for their alleged involvement in the annual problem of air pollution caused by fires in Sumatra.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency ( NEA ) recently obtained a court warrant against the director of an Indonesian company who failed to turn up for an interview with Singaporean authorities despite being served a legal notice when in that country.

The businessperson, who has since left Singapore, may be detained “for the purpose of investigations” if he or she tries to reenter the country, an NEA spokesman said, without naming the executive or the company.

“The Indonesian ambassador has conveyed [a protest] to the Singaporean environment minister,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said on Sunday.

The spokesman disclosed last week that the government had conveyed an official protest to Singapore. Another senior Indonesian diplomat said the Indonesian ambassador conveyed the protest on May 6.

However, a spokesperson for the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied receiving any such protest. “Mr Arrmanatha’s remarks are puzzling. He reportedly said that the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore had ‘strongly protested’ against the NEA’s actions. We have, however, not yet received any representation from the Indonesian Embassy,” the spokesperson insisted last week.

Singapore argues it is entitled to take such legal action as a result of the Trans boundary Haze Pollution Act ( THPA ) that its parliament passed in 2014.

The law enables regulators to sue individuals or companies in neighboring countries that cause severe air pollution in Singapore through slash-and-burn agricultural practices.

It was first proposed in 2013 after a huge rise in the number of forest fires on the neighboring Indonesian province of Riau caused thick smoke that blanketed Singapore in a choking haze.

Arrmanatha said the government had strongly protested against what it considered to be an encroachment on Indonesian sovereignty.

“[We protested at] the way they interviewed or interrogated the Indonesian executive because we regarded it as inappropriate,” Arrmanatha said.

While it is Singapore’s prerogative to enact its own laws, Indonesia could not allow its own citizens to be adversely affected, he asserted.

However, the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs has defended the move.

“The THPA is consistent with international law, which allows a country to take appropriate action to protect itself from external acts that cause harm within the country. It does not encroach upon the sovereignty of any specific country,” the ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Singapore argues the THPA adds to the collective efforts to hold errant companies accountable for their irresponsible actions that have been detrimental to the well-being of people in the region, including the people of Indonesia who have been the worst affected.

“We are therefore puzzled as to why Indonesia does not welcome these efforts,” said the ministry.

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