Authorities urged to act against big companies over haze

Indonesian workers extinguish a fire at a palm oil plantation in Sumatra. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Environmentalists are demanding for “heads to roll”, calling on Bursa Malaysia and the Indonesian government to take legal action against local public-listed companies named by Indonesia for causing the haze.

Anthony Tan of Sustainability Innovation and Network Development said these companies had allegedly failed to carry out their commitment to protect the environment and were also bound by the Environmental Quality Act 1974.

“If they are following such regulations locally, why not when they are overseas? It makes the Malaysian government look bad as one of the companies named is a GLC,” he told FMT.

Indonesia today sealed off plantations operated by at least 30 companies, where fires had been spotted, and brought criminal charges against four.

It said at least four palm oil companies whose land had been sealed off were subsidiaries of Malaysian groups. They are West Kalimantan-based Sime Indo Agro, a unit of Sime Darby Plantation; Sukses Karya Sawit, a unit of IOI Corporation; Rafi Kamajaya Abadi, a unit of TDM Bhd; and Riau-based Adei Plantation and Industry, a unit of Kuala Lumpur Kepong Group.

Tan said Sime Darby’s biggest shareholder is the government and “this does not reflect well on the Malaysian government”.

As for IOI Corporation, he said the company was once removed from the reputable Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a certification body on sustainable oil palm products achieved through global standards.

“After corrective measures, they were reinstated and were able to sell it to countries that demand the certification in sustainable oil palm,” he said.

Having gone through the removal process, Tan said the company should have known better what was needed to be done.

Andrew Sebastian, chief executive of the Malaysian Ecotourism and Conservation Society, has asked the Indonesia government to shame the “big boys if they are involved in the haze”.

He called for harsher action to stop the recurrence of haze affecting people, especially children, exposed to the thick smog.

Sebastian also urged Jakarta to investigate why these companies had allegedly flouted the laws despite an assurance from Indonesian President Joko Widodo to tackle the haze.

“Indonesia needs to check why this is still happening … if there is a lack of monitoring and if their enforcement officers are involved in corruption. Other than just blaming Malaysian companies, they need an internal probe and stop the recurrence at all cost,” he said.

He further asked Putrajaya and Jakarta to stop pointing fingers and to go after the culprits as transboundary haze was affecting the revenues and the people’s health in both countries.

In an escalating row over the haze, environment minister Yeo Bee Yin said yesterday that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad would write to Widodo to raise concerns about the cross-border haze.

Malaysia closed hundreds of schools and sent half a million face masks to Sarawak this week, after the haze built up to unhealthy levels.