Cabinet to discuss haze, Malaysian firms in Indonesia tomorrow

A fire rages in a plantation near Rambutan village, in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra. (AFP pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Hin will brief the Cabinet tomorrow on the haze that has engulfed the country since early this month, as diplomatic ties with Indonesia take a beating.

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said: “The Cabinet will meet tomorrow and I am sure the minister would be reporting on the matter and whatever further steps to be taken.”

Asked about the blame game between Malaysia and Indonesia over the worsening haze, he told reporters that the government would resolve the issue amicably as the region had experienced hazy conditions before.

Earlier, Saifuddin attended the “Malaysia-China Basketball Exchange Programme” and the handing over of the Malaysian flag to the national women’s basketball team. The programme aims to strengthen ties between both countries.

He said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had not written to Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo yet but “at our level the ministers have been communicating with Indonesian counterparts”.

Saifuddin declined to comment if any of the four Malaysian companies whose land in Indonesia had allegedly been sealed off by Indonesia authorities had links to the family of a minister.

The companies 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.

“Tomorrow we will discuss (the situation involving the companies),” he said.

Malaysia closed hundreds of schools in various parts of the country, and sent half a million face masks to Sarawak, after the haze built up to unhealthy levels.

Some districts in Sarawak reported air pollutant index figures of above 300 this morning, signalling hazardous levels.

Putrajaya condemns Saudi oil attacks

Saifuddin said Putrajaya condemned Saturday’s drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which have raised concern over oil prices.

Oil prices ended nearly 15% higher on Monday, with the Brent benchmark seeing its biggest jump in about 30 years.

Brent crude initially surged 20% at the start of trading on Monday, but eased back to end at US$69 a barrel, up 14.6%. US oil prices finished up 14.7%, the biggest jump since 2008.

Saifuddin said Putrajaya was keeping a close eye on developments in the middle east after the attacks that reduced crude oil production by 5.7 million barrels a day – about half the kingdom’s output.

“We are concerned as it can affect the prices of oil,” he said when asked to comment on the attacks on the facilities of Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Aramco.

He said Putrajaya’ objection to such attacks was clear as “we do not like attacks on civilians and assets”.