Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Haze: "A minister rises from the ashes"

Update: 3 Aug 2013: Dr Balakrishnan: 'I am energised by crises'


In a new Straits Times interview series Supper Club, Elgin Toh talks to Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan over fish head curry in his ward in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

Dr Balakrishnan, a former eye surgeon who entered politics 12 years ago in 2001, has been in the thick of things recently, having had to deal with two national crises - dengue and the haze - and a spat between his ministry and a Workers' Party-run town council in Aljunied GRC.


In Part 1, Dr Balakrishnan talks about the perfect storm of haze, dengue and hawker centre cleaning.

related:
Part 2: "PAP not afraid of differences of opinion"
Part3 : "‘Everything is temporary, family is forever"

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Re-imaging Vivian Balakrishnan


After all the drubbing and bad online press it is a good time for the MSM to re-image him.

I have blogged before that he is an excellent doctor, a good man but a lousy politician. This article about him I believe is accurate but it has a lot more to do with him as a person than performing as a minister.

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Integrity is key issue in hawker centre cleaning saga: Balakrishnan


Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan says that the key issue in the cleaning of two hawker centres under the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) is about integrity

He made the point in Parliament on Tuesday during an exchange with Ms Sylvia Lim, chairman of the Workers' Party and chairman of AHPETC.

Dr Balakrishnan called on the Secretary-General of the Workers' Party Low Thia Khiang to conduct an internal investigation into the matter.

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Vivian Balakrishnan says PAP should be upfront, transparent and not to misuse their power

Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister of something, during his engagement with WP’s Sylvia Tan was mentioned to have said the following in his closing speech:

  • You know, let me make this further point. Politics is a contest of power. But you know, the key principle is when you have power is, don’t take advantage of people under your charge and always be honest and upfront with your people.
  • All of us will make mistakes and when a mistake is made, just come clean and say so. But don’t cover up. That’s why I have not let this go
  • Because it is not about cleanliness of the ceiling. It is about clean politics.
Bravo!! He is one of the few PAP MPs who are willing to stand up to PAP and point out all the faults of PAP and ask them to clean up their acts and run clean politics (or was it the politics of effective cleaning.. I wonder).

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related:
TR Emeritus: Vivian accuses Sylvia Lim of being untruthful over AHPETC cleaning issue
The Online Citizen: Politicising it again? Media sense-knocking needed on hawker centre saga
Singapore Recalcitrant: A Comical Display Of Pomposity
Singapore News Alternative: NEA Minister Likes to Play Politics

Petty politics

Now we have a full minister that is making a clown out of himself and the party.

Many of my foreign friends had asked me “So what is your minister talking about? Is he even responding to the counter argument at all? And what is all that hoo-ha on cleaning issues in an eatery? Isn’t there bigger issues like the haze and that dengue epidemic?”. It’s embarrassing on so many levels. So much time and effort spent on discrediting the opposition party when bigger problems loomed.

It’s a disgrace to the country and a disgrace to me as the citizen of this nation.

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My advice to Vivian Balakrishnan 

Ever since his infamous reply to Lily Neo in Parliament, ‘You want to eat in hawker centre, in food court or in restaurant’, these words have been carved in the stones of cyberspace, Vivian seems to be having a pretty rough time. These words were the beginning of his seemingly unending problems as a minister.

While as a minister of Youth and Sports, he chalked up an excess bill of several hundred millions during the YOG held here, for under budgeting or overspending. The netizens were not kind to him and would remind him of these hundreds of millions overspent for some children against the $50 requested by Lily Neo for those dependents on public assistance scheme.

Thank God, Hsien Loong quickly moved him out of the ministry into a safer ministry like Environment, now called Environment and Water Resources. Things should be quite safe in this new ministry with flooding happening only once in 50 years. It turned out not to be the case and flooding has been mischievous and hitting places most unthinkable and in the most unlikely time. But the flooding is only flooding and should not be too big a problem to mess around with.

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The “Super Seven” Junior Ministers

Dr Vivian was a President’s Scholar and, prior to politics, he was active in a variety of involvements ranging from debates, hosting the televised Singapore 21 series to becoming the presenter of health education programmes in the 90s. He was a vocal critic of the PAP government prior to joining politics but was actually “converted” by Minister Lim Swee Say. Thus, Vivian holds Lim Swee Say is very high esteem and respect in all matters.

Dr Vivian probably has one of the most portfolios in the history of Singapore Government

“Sink or Swim”, seems to be the message to Dr Vivian. Apparently, he is not only swimming but seems to be on a “speedboat” for greater things. From my several encounters with him, he seems to be able to handle all his portfolios with ease and even answered my email at 2.30am when I emailed him 20 mins earlier!

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Vivian Balakrishnan - Wannabe tough guy's fall from grace 

Once upon a time, Vivian Balakrishnan was among a group of PAP candidates which was termed the “super-seven” by the local mainstream media. In the 2001 General Elections, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had introduce the seven - Khaw Boon Wan, Dr Ng Eng Hen, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Raymond Lim and Cedric Foo.

Immediately after that elections, Vivian Balakrishnan, who was said to be a critic of the government before he joined the ruling party, was made Minister of State for National Development in 2002.

Following this, he was given numerous positions in the next few years:

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"One statement which will haunt me for my entire political life"

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday expressed regret over a comment he made in Parliament which he described as 'one statement which will haunt me for my entire political life'. 

The comment was made in 2007, when the Minister for Community Development and Sports had an exchange with fellow MP Dr Lily Neo, on whether the government could give more money to the poor so that they could afford three meals a day. 

He had said: 'How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?'

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Parliamentary exchange between Lily Neo and MCYS minister


This is an excerpt of the parliamentary debate between PAP MP Dr Lily Neo and Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on the issue of public assistance.

Dr Lily Neo:
Sir, I want to check with the Minister again when he said on the strict criteria on the entitlement for PA recipients. May I ask him what is his definition of “subsistence living”? Am I correct to say that, out of $260 per month for PA recipients, $100 goes to rental, power supply and S&C and leaving them with only $5 a day to live on? Am I correct to say that any basic meal in any hawker centre is already $2.50 to $3.00 per meal? Therefore, is it too much to ask for just three meals a day as an entitlement for the PA recipients?

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan:
How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?

The full transcript of the exchange can be found here

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"Unfortunately for me, I'm one of those ministers who likes to speak without notes and sometimes I make mistakes"

In 2007 when the issue came up, public assistance was $290 and it now stands at $400.

Dr Balakrishnan said that needy families can also tap on other social assistance schemes such as the CCC ComCare Fund to cover their food expenses.

He added: 'So I'm stating for the record that I believe in helping people, and... I do take action and I will look after each and every single Singaporean.'

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Come on, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, what’s the real story?

  • “If you were a poor person, anywhere on this planet, Singapore is the one place where you will have a roof over your head, where you will have food on the table. Even if you can’t afford it, we will have meals delivered to you. You will get healthcare.” Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
Sounds very appealing and believable? It was. Till news channel Al Jazeera reported on the homelessness situation in Singapore, highlighted by The Online Citizen (TOC).



Subsequently, after this video was aired, Al Jazeera was dropped from Singtel mio TV, which gave all kind of reasons for it’s decision.

Vivian’s Virulent Verbilization

Dr Balakrishnan, I urge you to get off that high horse you have perched on top of your ivory tower, take the elevator of shame and descend onto ground zero, and view for yourself the poverty that you claim to have stamped out.

View for yourself the plight of the homeless, whom you claim to have helped. View for yourself the hungry, whom you claim to have fed. Then take the elevator back up, sit in front of your vanity table, look yourself in the mirror, and repeat that silly statement to yourself.

And if you still find it easy to persuade yourself, I can only ask that you stock up on Ambien, lest you have difficulty sleeping at night. God forbid you don’t have enough energy to “do your duty for people who need your help”.

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Poor? Government “will deliver meals to you”

At a forum organised by REACH, the government’s online feedback portal, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said:

“If you were a poor person, anywhere on this planet, Singapore is the one place where you will have a roof over your head, where you will have food on the table. Even if you can’t afford it, we will have meals delivered to you.”

Dr Balakrishnan did not clarify who he meant by “we” when he said “…we will have meals delivered to you.” One assumes that he is referring to the government, or more specifically, his own ministry.

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$387m Budget Understates Cost of YOG to Singapore Society

It has been widely reported that the original $104m budget for the YOG ballooned to a massive $387m. These are the direct financial costs of the YOG. However, the following are a few hidden costs of the YOG that, if we were to estimate and put a monetary value on them, could significantly blow up the total cost of the YOG to Singapore Society as a whole.

Firstly, if we were to calculate and add the monetary value of the thousands of man-hours of unpaid forced labour that Secondary, JC and Polytechnic students, as well as their teachers, have to contribute to the YOG, that would add a significant sum to the YOG black hole.

Secondly, consider the opportunity cost of the time spent by these students in the YOG, which they could have spent studying or other productive activity. Some students' grades will definitely suffer because of the time they have to spend on this event. This cost of the YOG has obviously not been factored in.

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Singaporeans demand more transparency on blown YOG budget
Singaporeans demand more transparency on blown YOG budget
Would things have been any different if a more reliable estimate of the budget was given?

It was a ‘mistake’, but Dr. Balakrishnan had ‘no regrets’ about spending some $387million on the recent Youth Olympic Games (YOG), more than three times the original budget.

“I think all Singaporeans should be proud of it. It was money well spent – I am quite clear about it,” he said in Parliament in response to questions on the overblown YOG budget. “If we spent $387 million dollars, will we get value from that expenditure? In my mind, the answer … is yes.”

The debate on whether the overblown budget for the YOG games in Singapore was money well-spent had been a hot topic of discussion in the aftermath of the event, with many waiting for the recent Parliament sitting for Dr. Balakrishan to provide details on how the budget had spiraled beyond the original forecast.

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YOG budget to exceed three times original estimates to $387 million dollars

At a time when ordinary Singaporeans are struggling to make ends meet, the PAP found fit to splurge an eye-whooping $387 million dollars on the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) which has surpassed three times the original estimates.

Speaking to the media yesterday, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports Mr Niam Chiang Meng admitted that his ministry may have been “caught off guard” again: “There was no precedent, no template. Maybe we were a bit naive with our initial estimates.” he was quoted as saying in the Straits Times.

However, he insists that the “benefits” of staging the Games will outweigh the increased cost due to international exposure for local companies, an influx of foreign visitors and an international media value exceeding $86 million dollars.

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MCYS minister: We miscalculated on YOG budget
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan speaking at the PAP rally on 4 May. (Yahoo! photo/ Christine Choo)
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan speaking at the PAP rally on 4 May. (Yahoo! photo/ Christine Choo)

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has admitted that his team had miscalculated the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) budget.

Speaking at the People's Action Party (PAP) rally in Clementi on Wednesday night, Dr Balakrishnan explained what happened to the YOG budget by relating it to his conversation with Thaddaeus Wee, an undergraduate, who asked him about it four days ago on the LRT train at Bukit Panjang.

"We got the initial estimates of the money to be spent on the YOG wrong," Dr Balakrishnan frankly told the 1,000-strong crowd that gathered on the mud-soaked field in Clementi. He explained that the games exceeded its original budget of S$104 million by over three times because it was the first time that such an event was organised and there was no other model for reference.

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Exposing the hypocrises of Vivian Balakrishnan

In his latest interview with the media a few days ago, the PAP minister in charge of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Vivian Balakrishnan heaped generous praises on the Singapore volunteers who have been slogging day in and out like slaves to ensure that the YOG runs smoothly.

“They are the real stars of the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. I think when all this is over and people have gone home, the enduring memory will be of our volunteers – how they got together, how they delivered,” he was quoted as saying in Channel News Asia.

He also said he’s given the YOG food caterers ”more pressure” to ensure the volunteers are given proper food and treatment, one week after the eruption of the “dog” food scandal, emphasizing that the volunteers should be treated with respect and treated the same as anybody else, even the athletes.

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PUB taken to task for trying to hoodwink Singaporeans

Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has taken the Public Utilities Board (PUB) to task for playing with words and trying to hoodwink Singaporeans by describing the latest floodings at Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza as “ponding”.

Both Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza were flooded on 23rd December 2011 when the Stamford Canal overflowed but PUB tried to dissipate the impact of the floods with the term “ponding”.

PUB had said: “There was no flooding at Orchard Road. However, water ponded at the open area of Liat Towers, the underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City and the basement of Lucky Plaza due to the sustained heavy downpour.”

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Vivian Balakrishnan: A flood is a flood

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan tells it like it is, even if such comments are really too little too late. Rest assured that this will be the last we hear of ponding from PUB, but the Minister’s intolerance for sugar-coating is merely a delayed reflection of ground sentiment to offset the general lack of enlightenment when it comes to tackling flood issues. The use of the spade idiom is apt, since PUB effectively dug a hole for itself by explaining away ponding in a response to a reader who had the same thoughts as Dr Vivian, but merely expressed them earlier.

Since Dr Vivian is such an advocate of honesty, it’s only fair that he should also speak directly and responsibly in the event that he makes a mistake, which was exactly what happened when the YOG blew its initial budget threefold in 2010.
“We got the initial estimates of the money to be spent on the YOG wrong”
A mistake is a mistake indeed. Besides speaking directly, word play and alliteration seems to be the man’s forte. On the AWARE saga in 2009, he unleashed the following tongue-twister/mind-boggler.

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PUB should not have used the word "ponding": Balakrishnan
The capacity of Stamford Canal will be increased by at least a third to reduce the risk of flooding along Singapore’s shopping belt of Orchard Road.

Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament on Monday, that a consultancy study is underway and is expected to be completed by May.

He said such projects can be costly, but his ministry is prepared to undertake longer term investments.
But he cautioned that Singapore faces constraints.

There have been three episodes of flooding in this area over the past eighteen months. Dr Balakrishnan said the episodes are part of a larger pattern of rainfall change in Singapore over the past decades.

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Gutter politics and political cowardice by Vivian Balakrishnan

The gloves have come off and the malicious, personal attacks against opposition candidates have intensified.

In what must be an act of sheer desperation, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, leader of PAP’s Holland-Bukit Timah GRC team, questioned whether SDP candidate Dr Vincent Wijeysingha will pursue the gay cause in the political arena.

In his press statement released on Monday evening, Dr Balakrishnan made reference to a video posted on Youtube which showed Dr Wijeysingha speaking at a forum on gay issues. Organized last year before Dr Wijeysingha became actively involved with SDP, the aim of the forum was to discuss gay issues, in particular, the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalizes sex between men.

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V Balakrishnan, the PAPpy minister with a schoolgirl’s tantrum

Apologise to tax payers for busting the YOG budget.

Dr Balakrishnan calls on WP to clean hawker centre and apologise to hawkers

Why are we overpaying ministers so much, only for them to act like petty schoolgirls arguing who started first? WP has invited V Bala to talk things over, yet this guy (or gal? btw isn’t Vivian a girl’s name?) seems to be so free and bored, he has to look for action

It pains me to see that a million dollar minister is wasting his time on petty things, protracting issues that are already resolved, instead of paying more attention to national needs.

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Making political attack on NEA officers is "arrogant and wrong": Vivian Balakrishnan


Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said it is "arrogant and wrong" of town council chairman Ms Sylvia Lim to make a political attack on National Environment Agency (NEA) officers for simply doing their job.

In a media statement released Sunday evening, Dr Balakrishnan said this is a "completely unnecessary distraction caused by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and its managing agent FMSS."

All town councils, he said, have always done routine spring-cleaning of hawker centres and there is no excuse for the town council (AHPETC) to delay the current cleaning programme as the safety of the public must remain the paramount concern.

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Dr Balakrishnan calls on WP to clean hawker centre, apologise


Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan has said that the Workers' Party (WP) should clean up the hawker centres under their charge and apologise to the hawkers involved in a long-running dispute over the cleaning of hawker centres in Aljunied GRC.

Only once the cleaned hawker centres have been inspected would he sit down for a meeting with WP chief Low Thia Khiang, said Dr Balakrishnan on Tuesday.

“At that point, I will be happy to invite Mr Low Thia Khiang for a cup of coffee with me,” he said to reporters, adding that  the meeting would also have to involve the hawkers.

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related:
Dr Vivian: "Clean up and apologise, then we talk"

As NEA is preoccupied squabbling with AHPETC and bloggers, Singapore witnessed its 3rd dengue death in five weeks
The Real Singapore, 25 Jun 2013
Yesterday, dengue claimed it's third life with the death of an 86 year old man who lived in the Sembawang Road area.

This is the third death to happen within 5 weeks. A joint statement by the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency says that the man was treated at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) after visiting the emergency department with fever. Full story

Related:
Singapore reports third death from dengue this year - Xinhua

Also read:
NEA very free – after quarrel with AHPETC, now quarrel with bloggers - TR Emeritus

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NEA very free – after quarrel with AHPETC, now quarrel with bloggers 

One of my friends said – wah nea again very free leh (after quarrelling about cleaning hawker centres) – now quarrel with bloggers that his article about the statement that Singapore is the only country not using 24-hour PSI reading is wrong lah!

Luckily got one very tokong blogger  furrybrowndog (juay mo kow) write very chim article to rebut nea’s press release 

Actually ah – nea talk so much and also the e101 cutthruthehaze web site also talk very much to say bloggers say so many false things
But, the obvious question and the bigger and the more important questions never answer till now
How come after 16 years – still don’t have national haze emergency plan? 

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Singapore Dengue Outbreak Worsens As Environment Minister Continues Bickering With AHPE Town Council
WSJ Blog, 11 Jun 2013
As weekly dengue-fever infections surge to a record, Singaporean health officials are stepping up efforts to beat back a tropical-disease outbreak that could become the city-state’s worst ever.

More than 9,400 people here have been infected by the mosquito-borne dengue virus so far this year, resulting in two deaths, according to the National Environment Agency. Weekly counts surged to an all-time high of 820 cases in the week that ended June 8, topping the previous record of 713 cases in 2005. Full story

Related:
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and NEA will inspect quality of work after AHPETC cleans up hawker centres - TR Emeritus



OPINION: NEA Minister Likes to Play Politics


Picture from http://singapore-lighthouse.blogspot.sg

Comment: Will Vivian Balakrishnan also be inspecting the quality of cleaning work at hawkers centres in all PAP's ward? 

After giving an update on Singapore’s latest dengue situation and dengue control measures to the media today (11 Jun), Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said he stands by his comments in the recent spat with AHPETC over the cleaning of hawker centres in Aljunied GRC.

In any case, Dr Balakrishnan told the media today that, for now, his advice to the Workers’ Party is to “clean up the place” and “apologise to the hawkers”.

After the place is cleaned, he said that he and NEA will inspect the “quality of work”.

Dr Balakrishnan added that he will then meet Mr Low Thia Khiang over a cup of coffee “after the place is cleaned and to do so with the hawkers present.”

That being the case, it will probably be the first time in the history of Singapore that a Minister is going down to inspect cleaning work at hawker centres. Full story

Related:
Singapore Dengue Outbreak Worsens As Environment Minister Continues Bickering With AHPE Town Council

 
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DR VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN: DENGUE SET TO GET WORSE

Dr Vivian Balakrrishnan has said that the Dengue epidemic is set to get worse as the peak dengue season is still yet to arrive.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, the Minister for Environment and Water Resources also revealed that locals were prone to the type of dengue found due to lower immunity. The strain of dengue present now also spreads more easily.

He said that it is a "paradox of process" that Singaporeans have a lower immunity to the strain than regional neighbours

 

A big battle against a small pest


So finally, the G is weighing heavily into the dengue fight, when it’s about to hit 1,000 cases a week. Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has called a press conference to hammer home the message to those people who are still unaware the mosquito could be breeding in their homes.

Good thing he did because, seriously, it was strange for a minister to come down so heavy on whether some hawker centres had their ceilings are cleaned and trading barbs with the opposition when there are far more issues to worry about.

ST chose to dwell on Dr Balakrishnan’s warnings and admonitions in its Page 1 story, while TODAY went straight into nuts and bolts of the dengue battle. TODAY reported that some $85m has been budgeted for the year’s dengue battle, up from $70 million spent last year.



Indonesia Foreign Minister labels Vivian Balakrishnan's call to identify companies involved in forest fires as "redundant"
The Jakarta Post, 20 Jun 2013
Amid criticism from its neighbors, Malaysia and Singapore, over the cross-border haze and deteriorating air quality affecting the two countries, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa talked tough on the issue, saying that ASEAN members should collaborate to address the situation rather than lay blame.

Singapore has urged Indonesia to provide data on the companies and concession maps to enable it to act against the plantation firms that employ slash-and-burn methods, adding that air pollution on the island had hit unhealthy levels with some of the worst readings since the 1997 regional haze crisis.

“Calls of such a type are actually a bit redundant, in the sense that we in Indonesia, the government and our people, want those responsible to be held accountable,” said Marty, commenting on the request. 

“There is actually no need for such a demand. We are fully aware of the impact and consequences and the need for action,” Marty added

Indonesia's senior official tells Vivian Balakrishnan not to interfere with their domestic affairs in haze spat
Reuters India, 18 Jun 2013
(Reuters) - Singapore's worst air pollution in 16 years sparked diplomatic tension on Tuesday, as the city-state urged Indonesia to provide satellite data to enable it to act against plantation firms that allow slash-and-burn farming.

"We need to exert commercial pressure against companies causing the haze," Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on his Facebook page, without saying what measures Singapore might take.

Indonesia's environment minister could not be reached for comment, but senior official Sony Partono told Reuters, "Foreign parties should not be interfering with our domestic affairs."

Plantation companies with land concessions in Indonesia include Wilmar International Ltd, Golden Agri-Resources Ltd and First Resources Ltd.

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Indonesia chides Singapore over reactions on haze situation


Indonesia on Thursday accused Singapore of acting "like a child" over acrid 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 Singapore and Indonesia 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. Singapore ratcheted up pressure on Jakarta on Thursday to take "definitive action" to stop 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. 

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Vivian Balakrishnan Travels to Jakarta to deliver PM Lee’s letter
Vivian gives himself a thumbs up at 845pm on Friday 

This was what happened, in summary:

1) Vivian complains to Indonesia about the haze
2) Balthasar agreed that the situation sucked and they were going to use water bombs.
3) Vivian learnt that Indonesia had identified 8 offending plantation companies, and urged Balthasar to investigate and prosecute the companies.
4) Vivian told Balthasar to sign the 11 year-old ASEAN haze agreement which had been sitting in parliament because no one gives a shit.
5) Vivian offers to help Balthasar put out the fire and work on sustainable agriculture management projects.

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A minister rises from the ashes 

Dr Balakrishnan, Minister for Environment, Water Resources and Political Wilderness, said he was happy to help Mr Khaw. “I had to seek the help of Hor Seen too when the floods came the last time, though I ended up searching a rubbish dump for houseflies!”

The minister was not aware then that houseflies and the local God of Rain share the same name in Hokkien. Nevertheless, he is glad to have come through a turbulent few weeks, having to combat dengue fever, the haze and opposition parties over hawker centre cleaning.

“Who would’ve thought that this literally shitty portfolio would bring so much work?”

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