Call for emergency meeting of Cabinet Committee on JE to change its name and strategy and stop being a laughing stock of the world in continuing to  fight the wrong virus

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Yesterday, I spent the major portion of my nearly three-hour speech during the debate on the Royal Address in Parliament on the worst virus epidemic disaster in the country and called on the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng to stop making Malaysia a laughing stock and publicly acknowledge that the viral outbreak is primarily due to the Hendra-like virus and not JE virus.

In my speech in Parliament yesterday, I also called for the resignation of the Health Minister and the Agriculture Minister, Datuk Dr. Sulaiman Daud whose Ministerial bungling and failure of crisis management were largely responsible for the unnecessary and avoidable deaths of some 92 people and the ruin of the RM2.5 billion pig-rearing and pork industries as well as other sectors of the economy.

I also called for  a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the real causes of the worst virus epidemic disaster in history, specifically to investigate:

It is most deplorable that when I was speaking at length on the tragedy of the worst viral epidemic disaster in history, there were Barisan Nasional MPs, particularly from MCA, who tried to make a joke of my outrage and anger at the the awful waste and even crime of the unnecessary and avoidable deaths.

This prompted me to use language I had never used in my 30 years in Parliament, telling the MCA and Barisan Nasional Ministers and MPs  that those who do not feel anger and outrage at the criminal loss of lives and ruin of the pig-rearing industry are not fit to be human beings, let alone Members of Parliament!

Such a public outrage has been reinforced by the Reuters report over CNN that U.S.  health researchers said  the death toll  in Malaysia has risen to 116 from the Hendra-kind virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the virus, similar to the Hendra virus that caused illness among people and horses in Australia in 1994 and 1995, is responsible for most of the encephalitic illnesses of 247 people in Malaysia and Singapore since September 1998.

Dr. Pierre Rollin of the CDC's Special Pathogens Branch said  236 people in Malaysia have been sickened and 116 of them have died. Most of the cases have involved men who have had contact with pigs.

CDC researchers said the previously unrecognized virus is similar, but not identical, to the Hendra virus that killed 15 racehorses and a human trainer in two different outbreaks in Queensland, Australia.

Researchers believe the Hendra virus, named after the Brisbane suburb where it was first identified in 1994, is carried by fruit bats, which do not become ill, but transmit the virus to humans, horses and other animals.

Experts are unsure of specific routes of transmission of the new virus, but it appears that people become infected by contact with sick swine.

Rollin said that at the beginning of the viral outbreak in Malaysia, there were clearly some Japanese encephalitis cases, but it doesn't seem to be the case any more. All the recent ones seem to be due to this Hendra-like virus.

The Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng should explain the gross discrepancy in the number of fatalities from viral encephalitis of 116 as given by the CDC and the figure of 92 as given by the Health Ministry website as at 6 p.m. on 8th April, 1999.  What is the reason for the discrepancy between these two sets of figures amounting to 24 deaths unaccounted for by the Health Ministry?

I call on the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to call an  emergency meeting of Cabinet Committee on JE to change its name and strategy and stop being a laughing stock of the world in continuing to  fight the wrong virus.

Abdullah must be warned that if continues to allow the Health Minister to mislead him and the Cabinet that the killer virus is JE virus rather than the Hendra-kind virus, his own  political reputation could suffer irreparable damage as to adversely affect his claim  as successor to Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister.


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