Generally, we would agree with what Indonesia said about Singapore and it’s not just about the haze.
Indonesia on Thursday accused Singapore of acting “like a child” over choking smog from forest fires in Sumatra that has triggered the city-state’s worst environmental crisis in more than a decade, as the two nations held talks.
The escalation in tensions between tiny Singapore and its vast neighbour came as the levels of haze enveloping the island hit a new record high, shrouding the whole city, from residential blocks to tree-lined parks.
As the acrid smell of burnt wood and grass crept into people’s flats and medical masks sold out at drug stores, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the crisis could last weeks and urged people to pull together.
The city-state ratcheted up pressure on Jakarta to take “definitive action” to extinguish the fires — but Indonesia, which insists Singapore companies that own plantations on Sumatra also share the blame, hit back.
“Singapore should not be behaving like a child and making all this noise,” Agung Laksono, the minister coordinating Indonesia’s response, told reporters. “This is not what the Indonesian nation wants, it is because of nature.”
His comments came as Indonesia’s foreign ministry hosted an emergency meeting in Jakarta attended by the chief executive of Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA), Andrew Tan.
Singapore’s air pollution index hit a new all-time high Thursday, soaring to 371 at 1:00 pm (0500 GMT), well past the previous record of 321 set the night before, before falling later in the afternoon. Any reading above 300 is “hazardous” while a reading above 400 is deemed “life-threatening to ill and elderly people,” according to government guidelines.
Singapore’s prime minister declined to respond to Laksono’s provocative comments, saying he did not want to engage in “megaphone diplomacy”.