Sinar Mas and APRIL blamed for haze

From ‘Indonesia blames eight firms for fires affecting region’, 21 June 2013, ST

Indonesia on Friday blamed eight companies, including Singapore’s Sinar Mas and Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL), for fires raging on its island of Sumatra that have sent hazardous levels of smog to neighbouring Singapore.

“The majority of hotspots in Riau (province) are inside APRIL and Sinar Mas concessions,” senior presidential aide Kuntoro Mangkusubroto told Reuters.

The environment minister said not all eight companies were Singapore based, but declined to name the rest of them

Indonesian officials must be hoping this whiny child that is Singapore has gotten what she wants, that after passing on the blame from ‘nature’ itself to Singapore and Malaysian firms, they’ve finally shoved some companies into the line of fire. So while the Indonesians are gearing up the helicopters and putting out fires, and Singaporeans are panic buying N95 masks, I’m staying indoors to dish out the dirt on some possible culprits behind the worst haze in Singapore’s history.

APRIL is a pulp and paper company part of the Royal Golden Eagle conglomerate, a Singapore-based firm owned by Indonesian magnate Sukanto Tanoto, the country’s 7th richest tycoon according to Forbes in 2012. We even have a library in INSEAD Asia Campus named after him: The Tanoto Library. In 2009, APRIL’s President and COO pitched to the Business Times what appeared to be a SUSTAINABILITY model in the Riau Peninsula, which bears the world’s largest ground carbon store i.e a goldmine. Was that nothing but hot air then?

The flagship product of APRIL is PaperOne, a ‘premium quality office paper’ that our haze-fighting ministers may ironically be using in their presentations to the Indonesian ministries. PaperOne’s website also includes the obligatory ‘Environmental Commitment’ section where APRIL assures us that it adheres to a ‘strict no-burn policy’. Just this year, Tanoto was lauded as one of Singapore’s 11 top billionaires, reported to have ‘relocated here in the 1990’s’. If the Indonesians are right and Tanoto still lives here, it means that the person responsible was right under our noses ALL ALONG. I can’t look at another piece of A4 paper without tearing and choking after this.

In 2009, a member of the illustrious Widjaja family which owns Sinar Mas bought a $53 MILLION Good Class Bungalow in Cree Court off Dalvey Road. Frankle Widjaja sits on the boards Asia Food & Properties and Golden Agri-Resources, the latter (GAR) being the world’s SECOND largest palm oil company. Founded in 1996, GAR is also listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange and again claims to be an advocate of ‘Sustainable’ agribusiness. 

In 2009, Asia Pulp and Paper were accused for firing up Riau, though they typically denied any wrongdoing. 2 years later, a trap set on a logging concession owned by APP killed a rare Sumatran tiger. If you have an iron lung and thrive on smoke, at least have a heart for endangered species. (In 2006, another Nassim GCB (No. 30) was sold for $30 million to Ms Oei Siu Hoa, sister of tycoon Oei Hong Leong. This was in addition to a No 28 purchase which she bought from motoring tycoon Peter Kwee in 2003. Both Oei siblings are Singaporeans, but the sister is known by another name: Sukmawati Widjaja, from the same family that owns Sinar Mas)

Other hotspots have been attributed to Wilmar International and First Resources (Indonesia investigating 8 firms, June 2013, ST).  Wilmar is headed by Kuok Khoon Hong, nephew of ‘sugar king’ Robert Kuok and 7th placing among Singapore’s richest in 2012. His palm oil company was also cited as the world’s LARGEST listed palm oil group in 2009. Which means that the 2 largest palm oil giants in the world are based in Singapore. What irony. Ex-minister George Yeo, once appointed as senior adviser to the Kuok Group, should know a thing or two about Wilmar’s palm oil operations. As for First Resources, their CEO Ciliandra Fangiono is 37 YEARS OLD this year.

I think all this fury directed at the Indonesian government for lacking urgency or shooting their mouths off should be tempered once we realise that if these accusations are true, then it means we’ve indirectly harboured, supported or even made a living out of some of these paper and palm empires all this while without realising it. But the bigger issue is how powerful agri-businesses can afford to play the ‘social responsibility’ card, wave some carbon certs around, and yet reap astronomical rewards from going against the very practices that they preach, decimating habitats for profit. We tend to take the haze as a personal onslaught, but it’s not all just smoke particles and lost tourist dollars. Animals are dying, and it’s screwing up the climate big time. Yet the jokes keep on coming, with McDonald’s leading the circus of haze puns with their Peak Sauce Index ad. You’ve made enough money selling Hello Kitty Macs, you really didn’t NEED to do this.



If Singapore prides herself as a stalwart of the environment, this would be the best chance to show the global community that we mean business when it comes to carbon emissions and ‘sustainability’, that anyone guilty of pummeling our lungs and raping the Earth with a record PSI 401 will not go unpunished. We should do more than just lock ourselves indoors and watching the smog monster slowly murder us all. With support from the government and NGOs, we can exert commercial pressure by rejecting brands that feed these marauding conglomerates. If you’re a printing company, you can set an example like Fuji Xerox by ceasing procurement with APRIL. If you’re a food giant like Nestle, you can drop Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology (SMART). If you’re thinking of dabbling in shares, do your homework before you become an accomplice to orang utan genocide.  If you know that your favourite brand of toilet paper is using pulp from APP, write to the company, or tell everyone about it on Facebook. Resort to splashing water or wiping with CB leaves if you have to.

But for justice to prevail when it comes to billionaire industrialists however, I’m afraid we may have to hold our breaths just a little bit longer.

Postscript: Big Pulp/Palm denied the accusations as expected, but the haze has subsided as I write (a refreshing PSI 73) due to Mother nature diverting it away in our favour. I took the opportunity to hunt for an N95 without any success. Thankfully, we seem to be an orderly lot despite being bombarded by particles, with no reports of fighting breaking out at pharmacies so far. That only happens for Hello Kitty.


7 Responses

  1. Good article. Several of my articles here – – back you up.

  2. Good insight! But, you may not know…Fuji Xerox is not only selling machine.Their other department is selling Photocopy Paper and Fuji Xerox is one of the largest paper supplier of Paperone (APRIL’s flagship brand) to office user. Talking about IRONY…This is an insult to their management which in your report says that : “Fuji Xerox ceases procurement from Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL)”

  3. Good insight ! You may not have know but Fuji Xerox other division is supplying Copier Paper produced by APRIL ! How ironic is it when they says : “Fuji Xerox ceases procurement from Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL)”
    They may have stop ‘using’ but they definitely did not stop ‘supplying’ to offices

  4. and BTW, our various statutory board and government departments are the biggest consumption of APRIL and APP’s paper product. again, another ironic.

  5. […] for haze, will S’pore apologise for hoarding dirty funds? – Everything Also Complain: Sinar Mas and APRIL blamed for haze – Loh and Behold: On A Clear Day, You Can See Bullshit – Thoughts of a Cynical […]

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