Citigroup named Jane Fraser as its next CEO, replacing Michael Corbat who will retire in February Julian R. Photography/AFP
New York (AFP) - Citigroup named Jane Fraser as its next chief executive on Thursday, tapping a woman to lead a giant Wall Street bank for the first time.
She will take over the top job in February, replacing Michael Corbat who will retire.
Fraser, who has served as president and CEO of global consumer banking since 2019, will join the board of directors immediately, the bank said. She has held prior roles for Citi in Latin America and in investment banking.
"I am honored by the Board's decision and grateful to Mike for his leadership and support," Fraser said in a press release.
"Our balance sheet is strong and our commitment to serving our clients and communities is even stronger. I will do everything I can to make all our stakeholders proud of our firm as we continue to build a better bank and improve our returns."
The move comes as Citi pivots to a more challenging operating environment as large banks set aside billions of dollars to prepare for bad loans due to the coronavirus.
Other women have become CEOs of big financial companies or in related industries, such as Abigail Johnson at Fidelity Investments and Julie Sweet at Accenture. But in taking the helm of the fourth-biggest US bank by assets, Fraser joins a group of Wall Street CEOs that until now has been exclusively led by white men.
Her appointment to the top job had been telegraphed from her prior promotion in October 2019 to president and head of global consumer banking. Senior women at JPMorgan Chase are also in line to potentially take the top job to succeed Jamie Dimon, who is expected to retire in the coming years.
Corporate America is also under scrutiny over the paltry number of Black leaders in the wake of massive racial justice protests this year.
Industry faces headwinds
After stumbling badly during the subprime mortgage crisis, Citigroup recovered in the ensuing decade after the 2008 financial crisis.
From 2012 to 2019, the banking giant saw net income rise from $7 billion to $20 billion, Corbat said in the press release.
"We went from returning hardly any capital to returning nearly $80 billion in capital to our shareholders over the last six years," he said.
The improvement coincided with a post-2008 US economic expansion that ended abruptly with the coronavirus outbreak.
In the most recent quarter, Citigroup added $5.6 billion in reserves for bad loans, a factor in a 73 percent drop in profits to $1.3 billion. Large banks are also staring at a lengthy period of low interest rates, putting a damper on another source of profits.
"The pandemic has a grip on the economy and it doesn't seem likely to loosen until vaccines are widely available," Corbat said on a conference call with analysts.
The Scottish-born Fraser joined Citi in 2004 after earlier roles at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey & Company. She has spoken openly about being a working mother in finance, recounting in 2016 how she worked part-time at McKinsey.
Having children "humanized me," Fraser said in the 2016 appearance at the Americas Society. "There is nothing like having children to help you understand where your priorities are."
Fraser also recounted her sometimes unorthodox career moves, such as exiting as head of the private bank in London in 2013 to oversee a turnaround of the mortgage business from St. Louis, Missouri in the midwest of the United States.
"Everyone thought I was completely nuts," she said. "I knew I would grow. I knew I would a learn a completely different skill set."
Shares of Citigroup were flat at $51.41 in late-morning trading.
Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi (center) walks at Kertajati International Airport in Majalengka, West Java, on March 1. The minister tested positive of COVID-19, State Secretary Pratikno announced on Saturday evening. (Antara/ Dedhez Anggara)
Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi has tested positive for COVID-19.
State Secretary Pratikno announced on Saturday evening that Budi was identified as Case 76 in a previous Health Ministry announcement and was being treated at the Gatot Subroto Army Hospital.
He declined to say when Budi had been admitted to the hospital or when he had likely been infected.
Budi reportedly attended a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Pratikno said President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had appointed Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan as ad interim transportation minister.
Gatot Subroto Army Hospital doctors said Budi’s condition was improving.
President Joko Widodo (right) accompanied by First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo (second left) and Dutch King Willem Alexander (second right) accompanied by Queen Maxima planting trees during a state visit to Bogor Palace, West Java, Tuesday (10/3/2020). (Antara/ Sigid Kurniawan)
“The ongoing global economic and geopolitical volatility will not keep Indonesia and the Netherlands from advancing their long-standing cooperation” — that may be the right tone to begin the narrative on the state visit of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima to Indonesia.
On Tuesday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo greeted the Dutch king and queen at Bogor Palace in West Java.
The visit sends the clear message that the two countries aspire to advance their ties going forward. It will surely create a new momentum for the Indonesian-Dutch partnership. The visit also instils not only increased confidence of Dutch investment in Indonesia but also strategic trust in the long run.
The visit produces numerous concrete deliverables in various sectors at the government-to-government as well as the business-to-business level. These include eight government initiatives in important sectors such as sustainable palm oil production, cooperation on infectious diseases control, waste management, the circular economy, water management, aviation cooperation, capacity-building of healthcare professionals, as well as women, peace and security.
On the business side, the king’s 190-strong business delegation has met with hundreds of Indonesian business counterparts and concluded investment and business deals amounting to US$1 billion. These include agreements on dairy products, oil and gas, agriculture, infrastructure and renewable energy.
However, these achievements did not come overnight. In fact, in the last seven decades, both sides have taken significant steps to strengthen bilateral ties.
I was the Indonesian ambassador in The Hague in 2013, when Indonesia and the Netherlands signed a joint declaration on a comprehensive partnership that laid out the modalities for concrete cooperation. This was an important building block to mature our bilateral cooperation into what we have today and what we will harvest tomorrow.
After more than 70 years, it is undeniable that the bond between the two countries has had its share of challenges. While we cannot deny the past of Indonesia-Netherlands relations, we can choose to fully capitalize on the potential of future cooperation for the benefit of both nations.
Therefore, the goal for our shared future must be clear, which is pursuing a forward-looking partnership that really benefits both countries and peoples.
There are three things that the two countries should advance together to attain common goals for a solid and mutually beneficial partnership.
First and fundamentally, both countries must remain committed to the common values of mutual respect and principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Second, the Indonesian-Dutch partnership must produce long-term and concrete economic benefits for our two peoples.
The Netherlands is and should continue to be Indonesia’s strategic partner for trade and investment. In 2019, the Netherlands was Indonesia’s largest investment partner in the European region, the second-largest trading partner and the fourth-largest tourism partner.
Our political solidarity in furthering the common cause of sustainability is also strong. In promoting sustainable palm oil in Europe, for instance, it is evident that we can rely on the Netherlands as our friend. Last year, together with my colleague, Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and cooperation development, we signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on joint production of sustainable palm oil in New York, the United States. King Willem-Alexander’s current visit has also brought an impetus toward the progression of sustainable production of palm oil through the conclusion of a technical arrangement that will focus on capacity-building for Indonesian smallholder farmers.
This is a good reflection of how trust is an important pillar of bilateral cooperation, as also exemplified through the Netherlands’ support in the establishment of the Indonesia-European Union Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade in 2016.
Third, Indonesia and the Netherlands must continue to promote the universal common values of multilateralism, diplomacy and democracy, promoting habits of dialogue and peaceful dispute settlement to tackle shared global challenges amid rising tensions, intolerance and unilateralism.
Peacekeeping and counterterrorism are among our signature areas of collaboration on the world stage.
Indonesia and the Netherlands were among the core countries facilitating and supporting the Untied Nations' secretary-general’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative to rally member states and other crucial stakeholders to fulfil their obligation in strengthening UN peacekeeping operations.
Both nations also need to stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
Deepening the promotion of democracy, pluralism and tolerance are other important areas of cooperation to further develop. The Bali Democracy Forum could become the platform to jointly advance these shared values.
Women, peace and security shall be another hallmark of our bilateral cooperation. The partnership aspires to deepen the capacity of women to promote peace and security, in line with the formation of the ASEAN Women Mediators Network and the Afghanistan-Indonesia Women Network last March.
In conclusion, another historical step was taken with the king of the Netherlands’ visit to Indonesia, in the very year when Indonesia celebrates its 75th year of independence.
The history binding our two countries together is not an easy one. This dark period should not be repeated in the future.
King Alexander stated that “today, we warmly congratulate the people of Indonesia as you celebrate 75 years of independence. The past cannot be erased and will have to be acknowledged by each generation in turn.” King Alexander also expressed his regret and apologized for excessive violence on the part of the Dutch in those years.
Let us together build a better and stronger relationship, one that is based on mutual respect and mutual interests. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.
King Willem-Alexander and Indonesian president Joko Widodo. Photo: AP Photo/ Achmad Ibrahim, Pool
Scientists are debating how the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,100 people in China and spread to dozens of countries around the world, was transmitted to humans (AFP Photo/Ronny Adolof Buol)
Bats, rats and snakes are still being sold at an Indonesian market known for its wildlife offerings, despite a government request to take them off the menu over fears of a link to the deadly coronavirus.
Vendors at the Tomohon Extreme Meat market on Sulawesi island say business is booming and curious tourists keep arriving to check out exotic fare that enrages animal rights activists.
But scientists are debating how the new virus, which has killed more than 1,100 people in China and spread to dozens of countries around the world, was transmitted to humans.
A wildlife market in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, is thought to be ground zero and there is suspicion it could have originated in bats.
The possible link wasn't on many radar screens at the Indonesian market, however.
Vendors at the Tomohon Extreme Meat market on Sulawesi island say
business is booming (AFP Photo/Ronny Adolof Buol)
Its grubby stalls feature a dizzying array of animals including giant snakes, rats impaled on sticks and charred dogs with their hair seared off by blowtorches -- a gory scene described by some critics as "like walking through hell".
Bat seller Stenly Timbuleng says he's still moving his fare for as much as 60,000 rupiah ($4.40) a kilogram to buyers in the area, where bats are a speciality in local cuisine.
"I'm selling between 40 and 60 kilograms every day," the 45-year-old told AFP.
"The virus hasn't affected sales. My customers still keep coming."
Restaurateur Lince Rengkuan -- who serves bats including their heads and wings stewed in coconut milk and spices -- says the secret is preparation.
"If you don't cook the bat well then of course it can be dangerous," she said.
Stalls at the Tomohon Extreme Meat market on Sulawesi island feature
a dizzying array of animals (AFP Photo/Ronny Adolof Buol)
"We cook it thoroughly and so far the number of customers hasn't gone down at all."
This despite a request from the local government and the health agency to take bats and other wildlife out of circulation -- a call that has been all but ignored.
"We're also urging people not to consume meat from animals suspected to be carriers of a fatal disease," said Ruddy Lengkong, head of the area's government trade and industry agency.
Indonesia has not yet reported a confirmed case of the virus.
In the capital Jakarta, vendors selling skinned snakes and cobra blood on a recent Saturday night didn't have any trouble finding takers.
"It's good for you, sir," said one vendor of his slithering fare.
Indonesia has accused the European Union of discrimination against its palm oil exports (AFP Photo/Mohd RASFAN)
Indonesia has filed a World Trade Organization lawsuit against the European Union over plans to phase out palm oil-based biofuel for cars, the trade ministry said.
The action could escalate a trade dispute between Indonesia -- the world's top palm oil producer - and the EU, which plans to end its use of biofuels by 2030, citing concerns over widespread deforestation caused by the sector.
The EU earlier imposed duties on imports of subsidised biodiesel from Indonesia saying it was needed to level the playing field for its producers.
In response to what it called "discriminative" policies against its key palm oil exports, Indonesia said it filed a complaint with the WTO last week.
"Indonesia officially sent a request for consultation on December 9, 2019 to the EU as the initial step for the lawsuit," Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto said in a statement Sunday.
Neighbouring Malaysia, the world's second-biggest palm oil producer, has also threatened WTO action against the EU.
Teresa Kok, the minister overseeing Malaysia's palm oil sector, told AFP on Monday that she will head to Europe in March, and a challenge will not be filed until after then.
She said she wanted to try to convince European officials to change course on her trip.
"I want to give my trip a chance and see whether I can avoid filing the case at the WTO," she added.
Palm oil is the world's most widely used vegetable oil and a key ingredient in a wide range of products from food to cosmetics.
But environmentalists say it drives deforestation, with huge swathes of Southeast Asian rainforest logged in recent decades to make way for palm plantations.
Iman Pambagyo, Indonesia's director general for international trade negotiations, said Jakarta had previously tried other bilateral avenues to reach an agreement, without success.
"We need to assert Indonesia's stance on EU policy," Pambagyo said, referring to the WTO complaint, and adding that he hoped for a "best solution".
The disassembled parts of a smuggled Harley Davidson Shovelhead are shown
by customs officials in Jakarta on Thursday. (B1 TV Photo)
Jakarta. Flag carrier Garuda Indonesia's president director I Gusti Ngurah Ashkara is soon to be fired for allegedly smuggling a Harley Davidson motorcycle and two Brompton bicycles, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir said on Thursday.
The items were smuggled inside Garuda's brand new Airbus A330-900 Neo being delivered from its factory in Toulouse, France, in mid-November.
There were 22 passengers on the plane and four of them were Garuda directors: the president director, better known as Ari Ashkara, technical and services director Iwan Joeniarto, cargo and business development director Mohammas Iqbal and human resources director Heri Akhyar.
"As the SOE Minister, I will dismiss the Garuda president director. We will not stop there; we will look for other people who might have been involved in this case as well," Erick told a press conference in Jakarta.
The used Harley Davidson motorcycle had been disassembled prior to delivery and smuggled as parts. Customs officials found them wrapped in 15 boxes inside the plane's cargo area.
The Brompton bikes and accessories were found in three other boxes.
Erick said an audit by the customs office showed the smuggled items belonged to the president director, despite the baggage claim tags carrying different names.
Ari had instructed his subordinates to find him a classic Harley Davidson Shovelhead from the 1970s.
The used motorcycle was purchased in April 2019 with the help of a Garuda finance manager in Amsterdam.
"It's really sad that this [personal] transaction had to drag down an SOE," Erick said.
The Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhur Binsar Pandjaitan said during a visit to Tongxiang, China, on Thursday that he fully supported Erick's decision.
"[An act like] this will hurt our investment climate," he said.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati meanwhile said smuggling the Harley and the Bromptons had cost the country up to Rp 1.5 billion ($107,000) in unpaid taxes.
"The Harley bike is valued at Rp 800 million and the Brompton bicycles cost Rp 50-60 million each," Sri Mulyani said.
"Everyone should always obey existing regulations," she told reporters.
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (C) said his final term would be aimed at eradicating poverty (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo was sworn in for a second term on Sunday, as helicopters flew overhead and troops kept watch in the capital Jakarta -- days after Islamist militants tried to assassinate his top security minister.
Foreign heads of state, lawmakers and political rivals looked on as Widodo, 58, and Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, 76, read an oath to start a five-year tenure leading the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.
Outside parliament, red-and-white Indonesian flags dotted parts of the city, but celebrations were muted with supporters outnumbered by some 30,000 security personnel deployed amid fears of another attack.
Demonstrations were also banned on Sunday as extremist violence continues to plague Indonesia.
Several thousand supporters, many wearing T-shirts bearing the leader's image, watched the ceremony on a big screen near Jakarta's national monument.
"I was worried Islamic (hardliners) would take over the country if he lost," supporter Suprihatini, who goes by one name, told AFP.
"I'm Muslim, but I don't want that kind of movement here," the 53-year-old added.
Widely known as Jokowi, the president said his final term would be aimed at eradicating poverty and catapulting the nation of some 260 million into a developed country with one of the world's top five economies by 2045.
"I'm calling on ministers, public officials and bureaucrats to take these targets seriously," he told parliament, adding that officials not committed to his goals would be sacked.
In Jakarta, supporters carried a 200-metre (655 foot) Indonesian flag along the streets, while Jokowi fans erected a seven-metre (23 foot) tumpeng in his honour -- a towering rendition of a popular cone-shaped dish -- in the country's second-biggest city Surabaya.
Jokowi, a popular, heavy metal-loving former businessman from outside the political and military elite, was hailed as Indonesia's answer to Barack Obama when he was first elected in 2014, partly on a roads-to-airports infrastructure drive.
But his leadership has been under mounting criticism after a wave of crises that threaten to cast a shadow over his final term.
Challenges facing the president range from nationwide anti-government demonstrations -- in which three students died -- and smog-belching forest fires that sparked diplomatic tensions with Indonesia's neighbours, to deadly unrest in Papua province and a slowdown in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.
It marked a stark reversal of fortune just months after Jokowi scored a thumping re-election victory against a former military general.
"This is the weakest point in Jokowi's political leadership," said Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
"It's a test for the president in critical times."
Protests erupted last month across the archipelago that were among the biggest student rallies since mass demonstrations toppled the Suharto dictatorship in 1998.
Jokowi's inauguration comes a little over a week after the country's chief security minister was stabbed in an attack by two members of a local extremist outfit allied to the Islamic State group.
Two suspects were arrested at the scene, while dozens of suspected militants have since been detained in a country-wide dragnet following the assassination attempt on Wiranto, a former general who goes by one name. The 72-year-old is recovering in hospital.
Jokowi's new term also comes amid criticism that Indonesia's two decades of democratic reforms are being eroded under the watch of a man once lauded by Time magazine as "A New Hope".
Choosing conservative cleric Amin as vice president has also thrown Indonesia's reputation for tolerant Islam into question.
Jokowi's administration appeared caught off guard in September's protests that saw thousands of students hit the streets to demonstrate against a raft of divisive reforms, including banning pre-marital sex and changes that critics said would weaken the anti-graft agency.
The death appeared to mark the first fatality in days of street battles across Indonesia (AFP Photo/STR)
An Indonesian student died Thursday as thousands hit the streets nationwide in a wave of opposition to a major overhaul of the country's criminal code and a bid to weaken its anti-corruption agency, police said.
The death appeared to mark the first fatality in days of street battles across the Southeast Asian country, which have left hundreds injured and sparked a call from Amnesty International to probe what it described as "massive police violence" against protesters.
The 21-year-old victim was rushed to hospital suffering from a chest wound and later died as riots erupted in Kendari city on Sulawesi island, where the local parliament was torched, authorities said.
But police denied playing a role in the death, amid social media claims that the engineering student was shot.
"There was an injured student among the crowd. He was taken to the hospital and declared dead as doctors tried to save him. He had a wound on his right chest, but I cannot confirm what kind of injury it was," Southeast Sulawesi police spokesman Harry Golden Hart told Metro TV.
Hundreds have been injured in the protests against a major overhaul of
the country's criminal code (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)
"None of our officers carried live bullets... or even rubber bullets," he added.
The unrest was sparked by a proposed bill that includes dozens of law changes -- from criminalising pre-marital sex and restricting sales of contraceptives, to making it illegal to insult the president.
There has also been a backlash against a separate bill that critics fear would dilute the powers of Indonesia's corruption-fighting agency -- known as the KPK -- including its ability to wire-tap graft suspects.
The demonstrations across the archipelago are among the biggest since mass street protests in 1998 brought down the three-decade Suharto dictatorship.
Passage of the controversial changes has now been delayed.
The demonstrations across the archipelago are among the biggest since mass
street protests in 1998 brought down the three-decade Suharto dictatorship
(AFP Photo/CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN)
And, on Thursday, President Joko Widodo appeared to backtrack on plans to press ahead with the anti-corruption agency law, saying he would consider revising it.
"There was a lot of feedback given to me" about the law, Widodo said during a televised press conference.
"Of course I'll consider (a revision) and after making a decision, I will announce it."
Earlier Thursday, officials said more than 500 students had been arrested after a night of street battles in downtown Jakarta between molotov-cocktail throwing protesters and riot police who shot tear gas into the crowds.
Meanwhile, a mass of students stormed and occupied the local parliament building in Sumatra's Padang city Wednesday.
Most of the Jakarta students were set free, but some were still being held after police found knives and other sharp weapons in their possession, police said.
Students have issued a list of demands including scrapping some of the
criminal-code changes (AFP Photo/Bahauddin Raja BASO)
Students have issued a list of demands including scrapping some of the criminal-code changes, withdrawing troops from Indonesia's restive Papua region, and halting forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo that have unleashed toxic haze across Southeast Asia.
A vote on the criminal-code bill was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but Widodo has called for a delay in passing the controversial changes that could affect millions of Indonesians, including gay and heterosexual couples who might face jail for having sex outside wedlock, or having an affair.
Updating Indonesia's Dutch colonial-era criminal code has been debated for decades and appeared set to pass in 2018 before momentum fizzled out.
A renewed push this year, backed by Islamic groups, was met with a wave of criticism over what many saw as a draconian law that invaded the bedrooms of a nation with some 260 million people -- the fourth most populous on Earth.
Protesters set fires and threw rocks at riot police in Makassar on Sulawesi island to protest against a new criminal code law (AFP Photo/DAENG MANSUR)
Jakarta (AFP) - Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters outside Indonesia's parliament Tuesday as thousands demonstrated nationwide against a new criminal code that would, among other things, outlaw pre-marital sex and weaken the country's anti-graft agency.
Protesters covered their faces and scattered in all directions as chaos erupted in the centre of the sprawling capital, Jakarta.
Police also fired teargas at rock-throwing protesters in Makassar on Sulawesi island, while demonstrators broke down a barrier outside the governor's office in Semarang on Java island.
"(We) forcibly dispersed student because they were carrying out anarchist acts, damaging government property and throwing stones at police," said Dicky Sondani, a South Sulawesi police spokesman.
The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered
across the Southeast Asian archipelago (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)
The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered across the Southeast Asian archipelago -- including in cultural capital Yogyakarta and holiday hotspot Bali -- for a second day in a row.
On Tuesday, lawmakers debated a wide-ranging legal overhaul including hundreds of new laws that would criminalise pre-marital sex, restrict sales of contraceptives, make it illegal to insult the president, and toughen the Muslim majority country's blasphemy laws.
"We want the bill which is being debated to be revised," said Jakarta university student Amel.
"The police were excessive teargassing us. We weren't being violent," he added.
A vote on the bill was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but President Joko Widodo last week called for a delay in passing the proposed changes after a public backlash.
Riot police used water cannon against protesters in Sulawesi (AFP Photo/ Andri SAPUTRA)
The mooted changes could affect millions of Indonesians, including gay and heterosexual couples who might face jail for having sex outside wedlock, or having an affair.
Widodo's call for a delay came as the Australian embassy in Jakarta issued a fresh travel advisory, warning that the legislation could put unmarried foreign tourists in the crosshairs.
Millions of tourists visit Bali and other beach destinations in the Southeast Asian nation.
Widodo this week stood firm on plans to pass a separate bill that critics fear would dilute the investigative powers of the corruption-fighting agency -- known as the KPK -- including its ability to wire-tap suspects.
The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered
across the Southeast Asian archipelago (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)
Updating Indonesia's criminal code, which dates back to the Dutch colonial era, has been debated for decades and appeared set to pass in 2018 before momentum fizzled out.
A renewed push this year, backed by conservative Islamic groups, was met with a wave of criticism over what many saw as a draconian law that invaded the bedrooms of a nation with some 260 million people -- the fourth most populous on Earth.
An online petition calling for the bill to be scrapped garnered half a million signatures, while hundreds of thousands took to social media to vent their frustration.
The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)
Indonesia has arrested nearly 200 people over vast forest fires ripping across the archipelago, police said Monday, as toxic haze sends air quality levels plummeting and sparks flight cancellations.
Jakarta has deployed thousands of personnel to battle blazes that are turning land into charred landscapes and consuming forests in Sumatra and Borneo islands, where thousands of schools have been shut over health fears.
The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia, triggering diplomatic tensions with Indonesia's neighbours.
On Monday, authorities said they had arrested some 185 people suspected of being involved in activities that led to out-of-control fires sweeping the country.
"Indonesian Police will enforce the law against anyone who is proven to have carried out forest and land burning, whether it was done intentionally or through negligence," National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told reporters in Jakarta.
Indonesia's peat fires: a smouldering problem (AFP Photo/John SAEKI)
"This is a last resort. The most important thing is prevention."
Four corporations were also being investigated, he added.
Last week, Indonesia sealed off dozens of plantations where smog-belching fires were blazing, and warned that owners -- including Malaysia and Singapore-based firms -- could face criminal charges if there was evidence of illegal burning.
Some of the most serious fires occur in peatlands, which are highly combustible when drained of water to be converted into agricultural plantations.
Thick haze in Borneo -- where air quality levels have plummeted to "dangerous" levels in some areas -- caused the cancellation of about a dozen flights Sunday, national airline Garuda said.
Rival Lion Air said about 160 Borneo flights had been affected at the weekend.
Meanwhile, nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections linked to the haze in recent months, according to Indonesian health authorities.
Nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections
linked to the haze in recent months (AFP Photo/Str)
While forest fires are an annual problem, the situation this year has been worsened by drier weather in Indonesia, with diplomatic tensions soaring as toxic smog drifts over to neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.
The haze pushed Singapore's air quality to unhealthy levels for the first time in three years at the weekend.
In 2015, Indonesia suffered its worst forest fires for almost two decades, which dramatically increased its greenhouse gas emissions.
Huge fires tearing through the Amazon are also compounding concerns about the long-term impact of such blazes on keeping global temperature levels stable.
Indonesia is battling forest fires causing toxic haze across southeast Asia with aircraft, artificial rain and even prayer, President Joko Widodo said during a visit to a hard-hit areahttps://t.co/eyIkMCRURG