Feature

Singapore: Choking on our neighbor’s indifference

Singaporeans are gasping for breath because of the smoke wafting over from forest fires in Indonesia.

Chua Mui Hoong
Straits Times

Singaporeans are gasping for breath, said Chua Mui Hoong. The smoke wafting over from forest fires in Indonesia has polluted our air for weeks, sending the air toxicity index to historic highs and forcing us to hide indoors, where the smell still penetrates. But our discomfort goes beyond the smog. Singaporeans are also “smarting from and choking on the callous indifference of Indonesian ministers and officials” and their “shameless attempts to shift the blame.” When Singapore complained, one Indonesian minister said our government was “behaving like a child” by fussing about a weather event. But illegally setting a fire to clear land is not an act of nature. It is “a willful act of greedy company executives and irresponsible farm owners, condoned by officials who close an eye to such practices.” Another Indonesian minister was even more insulting, saying that the biggest offenders were Singaporean owners of big palm oil plantations, and suggesting we rein them in. Frankly, Singapore would be only too happy to take action against any of our own companies that might be causing the haze, but we have to rely on Indonesian officials to tell us who the offenders are. Once they do that, we citizens can spring into action, launching “consumer protests and boycotts.” For now, we have to protest by email—because the air is too hazardous for an outdoor rally.

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