Malaysian Government should declare a national disaster and send out SOS to South Korea and the United States for massive supply of suitable masks for the Malaysian population


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): I have received calls from medical doctors who are concerned that the government has not impressed on the people the serious long-term implications of the health-threatening haze emergency in the country.

Some of the medical doctors want the government to declare a national disaster as the worst air pollution crisis in the nationís history pose a grave threat to the health of all Malaysians.

As the National Cancer Society medical director, Datuk Dr. S.K. Dharmalingam said in the press today, a study conducted 30 years ago had linked throat cancer to wood smoke. As cancer manifests itself on the victims 10 to 20 years later, the government should be concerned whether the haze, with its component five pollutants like the poisonous gases of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone are carcinogenic and creating a new generaton of cancer victims in the country.

Last week, when the API was at the "very unhealthy" level, with the highest readings being 160 for Malacca and 186 for Kuala Lumpur, well below the present level of 839 reached in Kuching on Tuesday, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) President, Dr. Milton Lum had warned of long-term effects on the health of Malaysians, including severe damage to the kidneys, liver and the nervous system.

As he rightly pointed out, high concentration of polluted air resulted in the deaths of 4,000 people in the Smog Disaster in London in 1952.

At this moment of national disaster, the authorities must mobilise all the medical resources in the country, whether in public or private sector, to fight this national disaster.

The National Disaster Management and Relief Committee, together with the Ministry of Health, should convene an emergency meeting of all medical associations and local medical experts to study the long-term health implications and risks of the haze crisis and to propose a strategy for immediate action.

In this connection, there is widespread dismay that the masks being sold on the market are inferior in quality, which serve no useful purpose apart from giving the user psychological comfort, as they do not filter out the poisonous and carcinogenic pollutants.

The Malaysian Government should send out SOS to the governments of South Korea and the United States for a massive supply of suitable masks for the Malaysian population to protect them from the long-term deleterious health effects of the haze disaster.

It had been reported that the South Korean government has a stock of 50 million gas masks as part of its preparation for a nuclear war. The United States government also has a huge stock of such masks as shown during the Gulf War.

Had the Malaysian Government been in touch with the South Korean and the United States, or other governments which have ample stocks of such suitable masks which could be sent over immediately to Malaysia?

(25/9/97)


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