Author of Yearning For Justice: A Mother's Musings To Her Future Child  
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ISBN13: 9780901931214  
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Interview with Greenpeace on "Haze"‏

Haze in Singapore hits PSI all-time record high of 371 on June 17. The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit a new record high of 371 at 1pm on Thursday, again climbing into the "hazardous" range of above 300, according to data from the National Environment Agency (NEA). At 9pm Wednesday, the PSI had soared to 290, higher than the previous peak of 226 in 1997, and entering the "very unhealthy" range of 201-300. It was a leap of 100 points from the PSI reading just an hour earlier, making some wonder if the updated reading was a typo on the NEA website.

Both Minister Shanmugam and Minister Balakrishnan referred to the claim by an Indonesian Forestry Ministry official in the media that Malaysian and Singapore palm oil companies that had invested in Indonesia may be responsible for starting the fires in Riau. They asked Indonesia to share the names of errant companies involved in illegal burning, though primary responsibility to take legal and enforcement actions against these companies lies with Indonesia as they have clearly violated Indonesian laws within Indonesian jurisdiction.

Greenpeace International told Eco-Business on Wednesday that “nothing could be more illustrative of forest destruction than the polluting haze that is coming from Sumatra”. “But what’s ironic is that many of the corporations, such as palm oil trader Wilmar International which has been known to source palm oil from companies involved in fire clearing and forest destruction, are also based in Singapore,” said its spokesman. Greenpeace noted that the fires that burn across Indonesia are “a reminder that the destruction of Indonesia’s forests is an international problem, and demand solutions from government and business”.

Haze is not a new problem for us in Singapore or for Malaysia, our neighbours, but this episode is more recent than what we have experienced in recent years.
Prime minister said “we'll be fine if we just take basic precautions like limiting outdoor activities and staying indoors”
Yet, Minister for Defence said “that businesses and communities in Singapore can carry on”

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, who was at the press conference, said he was hoping to meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on his trip to Indonesia. National Environment Agency chief, who was in Indonesia for emergency talks, urged Jakarta to take more decisive action.

On 21 Jun 2013, Haze update: PSI 401 at noon; many pharmacies still out of masks. This comes after the Health Ministry said that it has sufficient stock of N95 masks, and will be placing more orders for the masks. Nationally, Singapore has close to 9 million N95 masks in its armoury, said director of medical services K. Satku on Thursday. However, queues were spotted at pharmacies across the island in the morning before they had even opened, as Singaporeans tried to stock up on respiratory masks. Many ran out of masks within minutes, while others did not have any to sell at all to begin with.

Singapore yesterday sought “strong, firm, effective” action against local companies that may be involved in illegal burning in Indonesia that led to the city-state’s worst pollution on record. “This is not slash-and-burn,” Shanmugam said yesterday. “This is not an act of nature by itself. These are actions by companies for commercial profit,” he said, adding that Singapore is relying on Indonesia to provide evidence. The Attorney General expects to know what action Singapore can take against the companies over the weekend, he said.

On 22 October, Greenpeace organised a press conference in Singapore. Household brands that source palm oil through Singapore-based palm oil trader Wilmar International, such as the makers of Oreo biscuits, Gillette shaving products and Clearasil, are making consumers unwitting accomplices in the destruction of Indonesia’s forests, and pushing critically endangered species like the Sumatran tiger to the edge of extinction.

On 29 October, we had an exclusive interview with Mr Wirendo Sumargo, Sr. Forest Campaign Manager of Greenpeace, at Greenpeace HQ in Jakarta. Greenpeace targeted Wilmar as it describes itself as ‘Asia’s largest agribusiness group’ with 450 manufacturing plants to operate in more than 20 countries across four continents while its distribution network covers over 50 countries. Wilmar claims to be the largest palm oil refiner in both Singapore and Malaysia and the world’s largest processor and merchandiser of palm and lauric oil with a roughly 35% of global market share.

Since Wilmar is the largest company involved, wouldn’t it be the biggest threat to the haze problem that Singaporeans experience yearly?
Shouldn’t Wilmar as the economic leader in the palm oil industry take the initiative to be a true leader by protecting the habitat and not burning peat land?
Greenpeace has declared that the RSPO is not good enough as guidelines - would Singapore’s government step out and implement better conservation policies to change current practices?
If the leader doesn’t take any action and if the government doesn’t do anything despite evidence being given by Greenpeace, then what can we as consumers do to protect our mother earth?

According to Mr Wirendo Sumargo, Sr. Forest Campaign Manager, “Singapore’s Prime Minister and his Government should take action against Wilmar as promised to Singaporeans"

Han Hui Hui, Leong Sze Hian and Vivian Pan


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