Protest conveyed to Singapore Environment Minister: Indonesia

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry reiterates that it has sent an official complaint to Singapore over plans to prosecute Indonesian businessmen for their alleged involvement in forest fires, but Environment and Water Resources Ministry has confirmed that it did not receive any protest note.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 16 May 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesia has rejected claims by the Singapore Government that an official complaint was not received by the city-state over plans to prosecute Indonesian businessmen for their alleged involvement in the forest fires last year.

"The Indonesian ambassador has conveyed (a protest) to the Singaporean environment minister," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir told the Jakarta Post on Sunday (May 15).

Last Wednesday, Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) obtained a court warrant against the director of an Indonesian company linked to haze-causing forest fires. He failed to turn up for an interview with authorities in Singapore despite being served a legal notice to do so when he was in the country.

Indonesia disagreed with this move and Mr Arrmanatha said Jakarta had then sent an official protest through its embassy in Singapore.

The Jakarta Post quoted another senior Indonesian diplomat as saying that the Indonesian ambassador conveyed the protest on May 6.

However, a spokesperson for the Singapore Foreign Affairs Ministry 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,” an NEA spokesperson said last week.

Singapore has argued it is entitled to take legal action against haze-linked individuals and companies after its Parliament passed the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act in 2014.

Under the law, regulators can sue those in neighbouring countries who are responsible for causing severe air pollution in Singapore through slash-and-burn agricultural practices.

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia on Monday, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) confirmed that it "did not receive any protest note from Indonesia on 6 May 2016 regarding the actions undertaken under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act".

“Contrary to what was reported in the Jakarta Post on 16 May 2016, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources confirms that it did not receive any protest note from Indonesia on 6 May 2016 regarding the actions undertaken under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act," said a MEWR spokesperson.

"There was also no mention of this matter when Indonesian officials were in Singapore for the 18th Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution meeting earlier this month.”

On Saturday, Indonesian Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya said Indonesia is reportedly reviewing all existing, planned and future bilateral cooperation in environment and forestry matters with Singapore.

- CNA/av

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