I don’t know why Jokowi refuses our offer to fight forest fires, says Dr M

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (let) visiting Pelalawan, Riau, Sumatra, to watch firemen battle forest fires on Tuesday. (Twitter pic)

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia never asked Indonesia why it did not accept its offer of assistance to combat the haze-causing forest fires in the republic, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

He said Malaysia had offered assistance to tackle the forest fires in Indonesia as it had water-bombing equipment.

When asked at a news conference why Indonesian President Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, was not willing to accept Malaysia’s offer, Mahathir said: “I don’t know why.”

“Asking (Jokowi) why you do not want to receive our help? But I have never done that yet.

“Why don’t you ask (Jokowi)?” he asked reporters after chairing a meeting of the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption here.

Asked how Malaysia will check the haze problem, the prime minister said: “We pray for rain. We try to do cloud-seeding and ask people to wear masks.”

Asked about the cost involved in conducting cloud-seeding, Mahathir said he had not received information on the cost.

“But we have a suggestion now to use drones to form artificial rain.

“We can use several (drones), not one, in a particular area in Putrajaya which is badly affected by haze,” he said.

Haze from the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, carried to Malaysia by the southwest monsoon winds, has reduced the air quality in many areas of the country.

Yesterday, Jokowi had said Indonesia was doing everything it could to tackle forest fires that have led to severe haze in several parts of the republic.

“We are doing everything to put out the fire,” he was quoted as saying via his official Twitter and Instagram accounts.

He also posted a picture of him visiting the firefighting operation in Desa Merbau, Bunut district, in Riau.

Jokowi said he also directed 5,600 additional firefighters to be deployed to Riau province. Currently, more than 10,000 firefighters, including police and soldiers, have been deployed to put out fires in Riau, Jambi and Kalimantan.

He said aerial water bombing and cloud seeding have also been used to put out the fires.

Jokowi said the government would take decisive action against the individuals or companies responsible for forest fires in the republic.

Since January, more than 42,000ha of land (forests and plantations) have been burnt in several provinces in Indonesia such as Riau, Jambi and Kalimantan.