Leaders of the House of Representatives were criticized for wearing face masks while they were presiding over a plenary session on Friday to express their concern over the haze disaster due to the prolonged forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
House speaker Setya Novanto and three deputy speakers were accused of politicizing the haze disaster that had caused misery to millions of people by wearing face masks during the plenary session.
'Our people in Kalimantan and Sumatra need real action. Yes the government should improve health facilities and programs to help them. But don't use this disaster as a tool for 'image building',' said Rahmat Hamka, a House member from Central Kalimantan.
In response to the criticism, Setya Novanto said that the move to wear face masks was to show empathy for the millions of people who suffered from the haze.
'These face masks show our empathy. We, the House leaders, want to remind to the House members about the seriousness of the disaster,' said Setya.
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislator Henry Yosodiningrat said wearing face masks was not a proper thing to do even though it was intended to show empathy toward haze victims.
Instead, he added, the House has to demand the government allocate adequate funds for disaster mitigation because Indonesia is susceptible to natural disasters such as floods and fires. 'The Public wants us to allocate more money to handling natural disasters,' said Henry.
Henry even considered that such an action was done in contempt of parliament.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party lawmaker Nuryati Ali Assegaf criticized the government for their lack of commitment in tackling haze, comparing to their efforts the efforts during the Air Asia QZ8501 crisis, when the government spent Rp 1 trillion (US$73 million) to search for victims' bodies. (bbn)(+)