Malaysian-owned plantations ready to ‘clear the air’ over open burning claims

Jakarta says fires are raging on Malaysian-owned plantations in Indonesia. (AFP pic.)

PETALING JAYA: The four Malaysian plantation companies which have been accused of deliberately carrying out open burning, contributing to the haze affecting the region, are prepared to clear the air over the matter, Teresa Kok said.

The primary industries minister, who deemed such accusations to be “very serious”, said she has reached out to the four companies.

“I can state that they will cooperate with the authorities to correct this accusation and put matters right quickly,” she said in a statement.

Earlier today, Reuters quoted Indonesia’s Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar as saying Malaysia had not painted an objective picture of the fires in the country which have led to haze in the region, as fires were also raging on Malaysian-owned plantations in Indonesia.

Indonesian authorities have sealed off land belonging to subsidiaries of Sime Darby Plantation, IOI Corporation, TDM Bhd and Kuala Lumpur Kepong Group.

Kok also defended the four companies, saying they were among the “most respected oil palm cultivators” who have adopted certified sustainable cultivation practices.

This, she said, referred to either the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, International Sustainability and Carbon Certification or a combination of these internationally recognised certification systems.

“Those familiar with the industry will vouch for the fact that an act of open burning such as the current accusations would result in the cessation of their certification status not only in Indonesia but throughout their operations, including in Malaysia,” she said.

Such actions would be counterproductive to these companies’ business status.

But Kok said she could not comment fully on the investigation and reporting by Indonesia until my ministry officials have full access to the investigation report.

She said such accusations were unwarranted as they would “play right into the hands” of the anti-palm oil lobby, and both Indonesia and Malaysia would lose out as major palm oil producers.

Raging fires throughout parts of Sumatra and Borneo islands over the past month have led to cross-border haze and Indonesia sending out thousands of security personnel to douse the flames.

It has been reported that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is writing to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to raise his concerns on the matter.