Dr M mulls new law to crack down on Malaysian firms caught polluting abroad

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government would introduce legislation to rein in recalcitrant local companies that turn a blind eye to open burning on their land outside the country.. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 18 — Putrajaya may enact a law to go after Malaysian companies with estates abroad that pollute the air and cause smog around South-east Asia.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the issue was discussed during today’s Cabinet meeting, adding that his government would introduce legislation to rein in recalcitrant local companies that turn a blind eye to open burning on their land outside the country.

“We want to take action against those Malaysian companies which have estates outside of Malaysia which are contributing towards the haze because of open burning in their estates. 

“We will ask them to take action to put out the fires, but of course if we find that they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law which will make responsible for fires in their property even if it is outside Malaysia,” he told reporters at the Perdana Putra building here after launching the new foreign policy framework this afternoon. 

This comes following a Malay Mail report citing legal experts who endorsed drafting laws against culprits of the transboundary haze. 

Enacting such a law would make Malaysia the second regional nation to pass such a law, following after Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA). 

The Act allows the Singaporean government to take action against companies found guilty of contributing to transboundary haze even without having businesses within the country, among them imposing a maximum fine of S$2 million (RM6.09million). 

Experts had also argued that it was merely political will that was stopping the Malaysian government from coming up with the new law, until Dr Mahathir’s announcement today. 

Dr Mahathir today also dismissed the argument that all schools nationwide should be closed for the remainder of the week, saying the situation has to be monitored according to the affected states. 

“We have to see how bad the haze because the haze is not the same in the whole of Malaysia. 

“If we see according to the reports today, we all might as well move to Perlis and Kedah because there is no haze,” he said in jest referring to the two Peninsular states that are least affected by the transboundary haze. 

Earlier this week, Indonesian government reportedly said four Malaysian-owned companies were sealed off due to fires.

The four companies were named by Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar as Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) Berhad’s PT Adei Plantation and Industry, SDP’s unit Sime Indo Agro based in West Kalimantan; IOI Corporation’s unit Sukses Karya Sawit; and TDM Berhad unit Rafi Kamajaya Abadi.

In response, IOI Corporation Berhad denied that its Indonesian subsidiary PT Sukses Karya Sawit was told by the Indonesian government that its land had been sealed off due to forest fires.

Sime Darby Plantation Berhad also claimed that Indonesian authorities had not taken “any action” to seal off the operations of PT Sime Indo Agro, that is part of its Indonesian subsidiary Minamas Group.

Distribution of hotspots detected from September 1 to 16, 2019. ― Picture via ASMC

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