JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesian leader Joko Widodo warned Tuesday that officials would be sacked if they failed to stamp out rampant forest fires that are belching out toxic smog over Malaysia and Singapore.
The threat came as Indonesia faced pressure from its neighbours to douse the blazes, which are blamed for sending air quality plummeting in parts of Southeast Asia.
“I’ve told the military and police chiefs to sack people who don’t tackle forest fires,” Widodo told a ministers meeting on the issue in Jakarta.
“We’ll be humiliated in front of other countries if we can’t solve this haze problem.
“No matter how small the fire is, put it out immediately,” he added.
Indonesian authorities are deploying thousands of extra personnel to prevent a repeat of the 2015 fires, which were the worst for two decades and choked the region in haze for weeks.
The blazes are an annual problem during the dry season but they have worsened in recent weeks.
Widodo said the 2015 fires caused some 221 trillion rupiah ($15.5 billion) in financial losses and burned about 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of land.
“That should never happen again,” Widodo said.