Putrajaya mulls law to punish Malaysian firms behind haze crisis

Indonesian firegighters putting out a forest fire in Sumatra. (Bernama pic)

PUTRAJAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today the government may pass a law to hold Malaysian firms operating outside the country responsible for contributing to the haze.

“We want to take action against Malaysian companies which have plantations outside Malaysia which are contributing towards the haze due to the burning on their estates,” the prime minister told reporters after launching the foreign policy framework of the New Malaysia here.

Mahathir said Putrajaya will demand that these firms put out the fires.

“But, of course, if we find that they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law which will make them responsible for fires on their property, even if it’s outside of Malaysia.”

Last week, in rejecting Malaysian complaints about hazardous smoke drifting from forest fires across the border, Jakarta said the haze was also caused by Malaysian-owned plantations in the republic.

Indonesia’s Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said at least four oil palm companies, whose land had been sealed off, were subsidiaries of Malaysian groups.

She named them as 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).

Sime Darby Plantation Berhad, however, has denied that a plantation owned by its subsidiary, PT Sime Indo Agro, had been sealed off.

Mahathir said the government needs to publicise where the hotspots are more frequently.

He said this when asked if the haze issue was raised at the Cabinet meeting today.