Chua Jui Meng
should come clean and clarify whether there had been scores of suspected
cases of SARS in Malaysia instead of continuing with the stance of "no SARS
cases, no suspected SARS cases or deaths caused by SARS" which has the
effect of shattering instead of creating public confidence
by Lim Kit Siang
Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng should come clean and clarify whether
there had been scores of suspected cases of SARS in Malaysia instead of
continuing with the stance of "no SARS cases, no suspected SARS cases or
deaths caused by SARS" which has the effect of shattering instead of
creating public confidence.
Last night, all the Chinese newspaper night editions, Nanyang Siang Pau, Sin
Chew Daily, Guang Ming Daily and China Press, carried front-page headlines
about nation-wide concerns about the killer SARS disease in the country, but
this morning, they were all directed by the authorities to remove the SARS
story from the front-pages and put them in the inside pages.
Chua and the government should realize that such arbitrary manipulation of
the media is not calculated to enhance public confidence in the government
handling of the SARS threat in Malaysia but will only have the opposite
The government is only undermining its public credibility by continuing to
claim that there are no suspected SARS cases when hospitals are setting up
special quarantine wards while media and oral accounts in the country abound
of flu/pneumonia cases and deaths which are suspiciously similar to SARS.
People may believe that there are no confirmed SARS cases, but for the
government to continue to claim no suspected SARS cases will be to so strain
its public credibility that its future statements and statistics will come
under a grave cloud!
In fact, there are medical doctors in the government service who have
expressed their surprise and shock that despite many suspected SARS cases,
which meet the three criteria spelt out by the World Health Organisation
(WHO), the Health Ministry has not taken the Malaysian public into its
confidence but has instead stuck to the stance of "no suspected SARS cases"
in the country.
Public confidence in the Health Ministry's handling of SARS threat has been
further shaken when Malaysians read about the open and transparent attitude
adopted by neighbouring countries in confronting the latest killer virus.
Leaving aside Singapore, even Australia has reported officially yesterday
its first suspected case of the virulent pneumonia, because the Australian
man's symptoms fitted WHO criteria for SARS although he had been
successfully treated in a Sydney hospital in late February and the illness
has not spread.
In the Philippines, health authorities reported yesterday that 23 people are
under observation in hospitals around the country for showing symptoms
associated with SARS.
Both Australia and the Philippines are not in the WHO list of 15 countries
which had recorded 60 deaths and over 1,600 cases to date.
Australia's chief medical officer Richard Smallwood has said that it was
inevitable that at least a couple of cases of SARS would make it into
Australia - which is in sharp contrast to the "no SARS cases, no suspected
SARS cases or deaths caused by SARS" mantra of the Health Ministry.
Chua should not repeat the disastrous mistakes of previous killer disease
outbreaks, whether coxsackie, nipah or dengue and come clean with the truth
with the people on SARS.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National