Sarawak MP urges MESTECC to convene Asean Ministerial Committee meeting over worsening haze situation in Sarawak

Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING, Sept 8: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii urges the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) to convene the Asean Ministerial Committee to enforce the existing understanding between the different nations with regards to the Haze Agreement 2002.

This is in view of the worsening haze situation in the state today. As of 11am today, the Air Pollution Index (API) readings for Sri Aman, Samarahan and Kuching were at very unhealthy levels of 236, 202 and 225 respectively.

“MESTECC should convene further meetings with different stakeholders including our counterparts in Indonesia to properly address the issue of transboundary haze that is heavily affecting Kuching and many parts of Sarawak right now.

“I believe that there is a need for a reconvening of the Asean Ministerial Committee to enforce the existing understanding between the different nations with regards to the Haze Agreement 2002 and also to take new innovative steps especially to address this issue in view of global climate change and also the shifting of the capital of Indonesia to Kalimantan,” he said in a statement today.

Dr Yii said while it was important for the various countries to reach an understanding, it was also important to have an enforcement mechanism to keep the different countries accountable.

This has been a chronic problem and has affected Sarawakians, especially infants, children and pregnant mothers who are more at risk, he added.

“In Sarawak right now, the API has been at unhealthy levels for the past few days and this has affected even our children in school.

“While the Ministry of Education can make a decision to close the schools in view of continuous unhealthy API readings, but this is a bit complicated when it comes to the national UPSR (Primary 6) examination.

“I am currently in contact with the Ministry of Education and they have given their assurance that they are currently monitoring the situation,” said Dr Yii.

He added, while he understood the difficulties in postponing a national exam unless the issue affects the whole region, there should be standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place known as ‘Ops Topeng’ that would be implemented in case of continuous unhealthy API during the exams.

Dr Yii said on top of providing enough masks for the students, each school should set aside the necessary operation room to coordinate any other necessary efforts including referrals to the nearest healthcare facilities in case of any symptoms.

“The Ministry of Health has confirmed that they are on high alert to deal with any health cases aggravated by the haze.

“The parents will also be briefed to take the necessary precautions including limiting the time of their children (outdoors), even in school for the exam,” he said.

Dr Yii said he was informed that the State Education Department has been provided with 50,000 face masks yesterday that would be distributed to students all around the state.

“In my constituency, I am in contact with all the schools and will be visiting some of them to further distribute more masks for the students. About a few weeks back, my office distributed almost 4,000 masks to different schools in my constituency.

“I will continue to monitor the situation and work with them to make sure the students and teachers are taken care of especially during this time,” he said.

Dr Yii advised the public to stay indoors and stay hydrated at all times. He also urged them to play their part by halting any open burning activities especially during this time.

While the majority of hotspots detected have been in Indonesia according to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre, there were also hotspots detected here in Malaysia, he added.

“I also want to thank all the different departments that are working hard to control the situation especially the Fire (and Rescue) Department, Health Department, Meteorological Department and many others for their continuous strong efforts,” he said. — DayakDaily