While speaking to Indonesians in New York yesterday, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla declared that Indonesia need not apologize to neighboring countries over the haze problem, repeating his now infamous comments about regional neighbors Malaysia and Singapore.

“Look at how long they have enjoyed fresh air from our green environment and forests when there were no fires. Could be months. Are they grateful? But when forest fires occur, a month at the most, haze pollutes their regions. So why should there be an apology?” Kalla said during the dialogue session.

He added that Indonesia only needs to ensure forest fires that cause haze do not recur. Kalla also blamed Singaporean and Malaysian companies for paying locals to clear lands using the slash-and-burn technique.

This is not the first time Mr Kalla has made such remarks. He has made similar remarks when he was Vice-President to then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono between 2005 and 2007.

On 18th September this year, he had made the same remarks to Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi when the latter visited the Indonesian vice-president’s office.

Kalla claims that forest fires and destruction were started by foreigners who needed land in the 1960s and 1970s, who later collaborated with Indonesian entrepreneurs.

“They taught us to destroy forests. As a result, using development as an excuse, our forests were felled. Our peatlands were opened up. Wet peatlands dried up, making them easier to burn,” he said, naming several foreign companies.

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