Advice to Chua Jui Meng to abandon old politics, adapt to the new political culture of greater accountability and transparency and understand that the Opposition is part of the system of governance of the country


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday):
I am very surprised by the reaction of the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, to my proposal that he present a White Paper to Parliament when it meets on July 14 to give a full report on the deadly viral epidemic in Sarawak which killed 29 children and why after more than two months, the killer virus was still undetected.

I had suggested that in the White Paper, the Health Minister should explain why the viral epidemic could not have been brought under control earlier after the first reported death on April 14 and what lesson his Ministry had learnt for future epidemic crisis management to ensure public confidence is never lost as happened in the Sarawak viral epidemic crisis.

Chua Jui Meng said my call was a "political ploy" and criticised me for "politicising" the viral epidemic. He said: "I myself will answer all questions on Coxsackie in Parliament".

I do not know how Chua Jui Meng could answer all questions on coxsackie in Parliament when as of now, nobody knows whether the virus which killed 29 is Coxsackie Virus B, Enterovirus 71 or Adenovirus - although the Health Minister was foolhardy enough on June 9 to announce to the nation and the world that the Health Ministry had confirmed that the killer virus was Coxsackie Virus B, causing extreme embarrassment to himself, the local medical experts and researches as well as the nation when it was found that such an announcement was baseless and unfounded.

However, I welcome Chua Jui Meng’s promise to answer all questions on the viral epidemic for two reasons: firstly, in imposing a mass media clampdown on medical officers from giving out news about the viral outbreak in the various centres in Sarawak and reserving to himself the sole monopoly right to hold a daily press conference on the viral epidemic, Chua Jui Meng is personally and directly responsible for the bunglings and mishandling of the viral epidemic crisis management.

Secondly, Chua Jui Meng is one of those Ministers who had been rather lax in their parliamentary duties as he had never answered Parliamentary questions leaving them to his Deputy Minister, in particular Datuk Siti Zaharah, to handle the parliamentary question time or to reply to MPs on policy debates concerning his Ministry.

If Chua Jui Meng takes the floor of Parliament in July to answers all questions on the viral epidemic, it would be a rare occasion indeed - when such appearances in Parliament should be a normal thing for a responsible and conscientious Minister.

I am very surprised however by the vehemence of his response to my suggestion that he present a White Paper in Parliament on the viral epidemic, as if to ask a Minister to give a full account of the viral epidemic in Parliament is to do something very extraordinary, or engage in a "political ploy" and to "politicise" an issue.

If Parliament is not the proper place to ask a Health Minister to give an account of the viral epidemic, which has caused so much concern not only to the people of Sarawak but to all Malaysians, and pain and suffering to the families of the 29 victims, what then is the purpose of Parliament?

I would advise Chua Jui Meng to abandon the old politics, adapt to the new political culture of greater accountability and transparency and understand that the Opposition is part of the system of governance of the country.

Under the old politics, Ministers would claim that the Opposition was "politicising" an issue or that the Opposition was "opposing for the sake of opposing" when they could not answer embarrassing questions raised by Opposition MPs.

A good example was over the rampant abuses of power in compulsory land acquisitions before the 1995 general elections, when the DAP was accused of "politicising" the land acquisition issue - until the government finally conceded to the gross injustices over land acquisition abuses by ordering a freeze of all land acquisitions for economic development until amendments were made to the law.

Chua Jui Meng should realise that it does not reflect well on him to evade the issues which I had raised about the deadly viral epidemic by claiming that I am trying to "politicise" the issue. The people, particularly in Sarawak, do not care whether the Health Minister is from the MCA, UMNO, Gerakan, MIC or SUPP - as all they want and have the right to expect is to have a Health Minister who is competent, responsible and enjoy public confidence and respect. Is Chua Jui Meng prepared to go to Sarawak to find out what degree of public confidence and respect he commands among the people of Sarawak as a result of his management of the viral epidemic?

Chua Jui Meng should realise that when Opposition MPs raise issues of great concern to the people, they are not "politicising" the issue but discharging their duties as elected representatives of the people.

Chua Jui Meng should realise that the Opposition is part of the sytem of governance of the country and that what the Opposition MPs raise are equally legitimate and important as those raised by government Ministers and MPs.

In fact, if anybody is trying to "politicise" the viral epidemic, it is Chua Jui Meng himself when he made the baseless allegation that my legitimate concerns and questions about the viral epidemic is to "politicise" the issue.

Twenty-four hours for Chua Jui Meng to furnish proof that that "on many issues, I only dare to raise them in the Chinese newspapers but dare not raise them in the English or Bahasa Malaysia newspapers" or he should publicly withdraw and apologise for the baseless allegations

Chua Jui Meng exceeded the bounds of the proper when he attacked me yesterday for "playing politics" on the viral epidemic, when he made the allegations that "on many issues, I only dare to raise them in the Chinese newspapers but dare not raise them in the English or Bahasa Malaysia newspapers". He further alleged that "I was only interested in ‘fanning fire among the Chinese populace’, to create disaffection among the Chinese populace to achieve my personal political ends". (Sin Chew Jit Poh)

These are very serious allegations. They are defamatory as well. Chua Jui Meng should be thankful that he is not in Singapore or he would have to pay damages for defamation to the tune of millions of ringgit.

Chua Jui Meng should furnish proof that that "on many issues, I only dare to raise them in the Chinese newspapers but dare not raise them in the English or Bahasa Malaysia newspapers" or he should be gentleman enough to publicly withdraw and apologise for the baseless allegations.

I am giving Chua Jui Meng 24 hours to substantiate his allegation or to publicly withdraw and apologise for his baseless allegations.

(28/6/97)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong