In an interview with CNN Indonesia yesterday, Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung revealed the shockingly childish reason why Jakarta had rejected Singapore’s initial offers to help them put out the fires: the Indonesian government was afraid that the Singapore government would “claim credit” for putting out the fires and solving the problem.
“The (Indonesian) government is not closing ourselves off to assistance. But if we are assisted, the government does not want them (Singapore) to claim the credit. It is the government that is working hard to resolve (this smog disaster) … So we do not want it to reach the point of them claiming credit for it,” Mr Anung said.
This was despite the worries of officials on the ground about the rapidly deteriorating situation and the numerous haze related deaths and illnesses that were racking up as the situation deteriorated.
The Indonesian government’s change of heart stems from a last minute cabinet meeting convened by the Indonesian president Joko Widodo, who decided that Indonesia would have to seek help from its neighbors after all. This after weeks of acid smog clouding up the skies in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.
Minister for Forestry and Environment Dr Siti Nurbaya explained the fires were spreading and it was getting more and more difficult to put them out. Hence, Indonesia would need international support, particularly in providing equipment to increase water carrying capacity and stronger volume pressure.
“It seems that there is a need to receive support whether from Singapore, Russia, Austria, and others,” said Dr Siti Nurbaya yesterday. She added that water bombing and artificial rain would be the most effective and so Indonesia required more aircraft for its fire fighting efforts.
Again, this was despite Dr Siti Nurbaya declaring earlier that Indonesia did not require any assistance from Singapore as it has more than enough aircraft.