Saturday, June 29, 2013

Haze: The Economist telling

The Economist newspaper is read by many thoughtful readers and decision makers. My daughter has suggested I checked out the article which she read yesterday. I think the venerable publication has done a first rate job cutting to the chase and explaining this to the world.

In the picture, tiny Singapore has been marked out in red but not filled with the color to satisfy our sobriquet: the little red dot.

Here a paragraph from it to note and remember:

Fraternal relations within the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the regional political grouping, quickly dissolved into acrimonious finger-pointing. Agung Laksono, the minister in charge of Indonesia’s response to the crisis, said that Singaporeans were behaving “like children, in such a tizzy”. Singaporeans and Malaysians pointed out that Indonesia was the only ASEAN member not to have ratified a 2002 Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. It was only on June 24th, when the damage was done, that its president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, apologised to his irate neighbours.

I was right to focus my ire on Ah-gong WhyUdonno. That intemperate and callous remark will stick with him for life for Singaporeans even after he has kicked the bucket. An idiotic successor to Habibie and given so many of such kind over there, who else will be following in these little men foot steps.

The Economist is pessimistic that this would be the last bad haze incident. The Indonesians are just not committed or able police their territories successfully. Incompetent enforcement and corruption pretty much guarantee that. So what if the legislature is willing to ratify the Transboundary Haze Pollution accord, which is remote.

I have always enjoyed Economist sardonic humor although this time we are getting the short end of the stick. They rounded off their story as follows.

For peat's sake
Much of the area now burning in Riau is peat wetland, almost all that’s left after years of rampant deforestation. Peat, which can go down to a depth of 30m in Sumatra, is highly combustible, even many metres down. A fire doused on the surface might smoulder underground long after. It is illegal to burn peat for commercial development. But as the past few weeks have proved, the law is not enough. And, ominously for those hoping for clear skies and clean air, a lot of peat is left.

Written with a natural flow and getting to the point quickly, this story will be read by just far to many for the Indonesian leadership comfort. Any face they might have left is flushed down the drain by this newspaper and many other leading publications. The BBC continues to rub salt into the wound for them. Malaysia and Singapore are seen as the victims and the giant Indonesia as incompetent, corrupt and callous. As much as Indonesia offer us many economic opportunities, she will always be an existential threat to us. Friends and enemies further away come and go but Indonesia will always be here and worryingly relevant.

One last crazy idea madder than my earlier posts on solving this problem. Will there be a fragmented world sometime where we are forced go nuclear with submarines in international water to be an effective deterrent against Indonesia? Of course by then it isn't necessary to entertain a nuclear option. Conventional weaponry tomorrow could pack as much devastation. May be space rather than under water is the delivery platform. We must always invest in leverage against Indonesia for our security. How I wish our relations with our neighbors could be like the one between US and Canada but that is just too much to ask for forever.

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