Use existing law to go after haze culprits, MP says

Malaysia has been struggling to deal with the haze problem for several weeks now.

PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago today suggested that the government utilise an existing piece of legislation to go after companies responsible for the haze that has blanketed the country for weeks, following the prime minister’s announcement that Putrajaya may pass a new law to hold the culprits accountable.

He said Attorney-General Tommy Thomas could issue certificates under Section 22 of the Courts of Judicature Act to make the Environmental Quality Act 1974 applicable to companies operating outside of the country.

“Indonesia has flagged four Malaysian companies for indulging in slash and burn activities.

“Extraterritorial provisions under the Environmental Quality Act would enable the government to swiftly investigate and act on all four Malaysian companies operating in Indonesia, if they are found guilty of contributing to the thick smog blanketing our skyline,” he said in a statement.

Last week, the Indonesian government said the hazardous smoke shrouding many countries in the region was also caused by Malaysian-owned plantations in the republic.

Its 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).

However, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd has denied that the plantation of PT Sime Indo Agro was sealed off.

Santiago said Putrajaya could also use the Environmental Quality Act to go after smallholders and companies operating in the peninsula as well as in East Malaysia.

He said those found to have flouted the law must have their licences suspended indefinitely, with complaints lodged with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

“Otherwise, it would do no justice to the Malaysians who are forced to breathe severely polluted air every day,” he added.