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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fire Fighting Planes

Every year, we have smoke haze from the Slash and Burn jungle clearing practices of our Indonesian neighbors. Some years are bearable. This year it is Unbearable. We KNOW the Indonesians. We KNOW that Slash and Burn happens every year with a fair amount of enthusiasm. It's just that the winds don't blow the smoke over to Singapore MOST years.

What happens in Indonesia is none of our business. If there is smoke and it blows over Indonesian territory or out into the oceans, that is none of our business. BUT when the smoke settles like ash from Pompeii over our entire country, surely we are within our rights to do something about it. We CANNOT depend on the largesse of Indonesia to look after our lungs... our little children... and our octogenarians.

We can have a plan as follows.



We can buy and place on standby a fleet of XXX firefighting planes. We can negotiate with the Indonesian government for the diplomatic privilege of maintaining this fleet on Indonesian soil. In the years where haze in Singapore is very bad, these non-military planes fly out and put out every BLOODY fire that they see. Instead of helping out with our military aircraft... I mean who wants another country's military planes flying about over their sovereign air space, this is a fleet of non-military humanitarian relief aircraft.

In fact, we could even set up a non-profit humanitarian organisation to help the Indonesians fight forest fires.

Yes I know. There are logistical issues. Pilots, costs... blah blah. In years where haze blows out into the ocean, then there's nothing to do. Pilot wages are paid out for no reason. That year's maintenance costs go down the drain. But hey, if God gave men nipples JUST IN CASE they need to breast feed then what's the problem with a few logistical challenges and costs.

This problem is beyond the Indonesians to solve. It's like bugging my mother-in-law to teach Little Boy better in Chinese Language. I decided not to bug her. I figured out a way to use her strengths and then I made up for her weaknesses. Result: Little Potato Boy passed Higher Chinese at PSLE.

We should stop being so rule abiding... and legalistic. That's a very ethnocentric approach that works only within Singapore and some other 1st world countries. Things get done in Indonesia through a system of interpersonal favors. That's how things work there. It should be NO TROUBLE setting up an ostensibly non-governmental humanitarian agency in Indonesia armed with a fleet of fire fighter planes. Even if it's an open secret, no one will care... as with many things in Indonesia. If you wanna get things done in Indonesia, think like an Indonesian... not Singaporean Ivy League graduate.

All we need is for Indonesia to give us some land to build hangars... station Singaporeans there on a rotational basis... and maybe 2 out of 10 years, these planes fly out and put out EVERY BLOODY FIRE they see. Only those years when the winds blow over to Singapore.

Only those years. Everything else is none of our business. We're not infringing on Indonesian sovereignty. We just want a way to protect our lungs. The Indonesians are reasonable people. We must be reasonable too. We can't expect them to do what they are incapable of doing. We need to help them to help us in a non-military way. These aren't even military aircraft. Just humanitarian only.

Instead, we are writing letters and trying to remain calm whilst allowing Indonesian Co-ordinating Ministers to tell us it's our own fault that we breathe smoke. Nobody cares about our lungs more than we do. We can't expect Indonesia to care so much. They can't. They won't. They don't.


2 comments:

Edelweiss Ling said...

Instead of planes, what about just providing fertilizer so that they don't have to slash and burn to prepare their land?

Petunia Lee said...

Edelweiss - I think it's a great idea... and I think they've been doing this for many years. The problem is that we are dealing with a centuries old cultural habit. You won't break this habit unless there is a deterrent.

This deterrent shouldn't be too harsh and has to be immediately linked to the misdemeanor. In this case, we put out the fires whenever it has started... and there is no way they can clear the forest that way. This encourages them to explore OTHER ways of clearing the forest... and fertilising it.