Did Selangor Exco protest and seek to overturn the Cabinet ban on release of information about dengue epidemic this year in order to save lives and stop unnecessary and avoidable deaths as Selangor is the worst dengue affected state?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): I have received a second email reply from the Selangor Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Dr. Mohamad Khir Toyo, to my fifth email on the worst dengue epidemic in Selangor, both in the whole country in the current dengue epidemic and in the history of the state.

I received the reply last evening after I had sent my seventh email and eighth question to the Selangor Mentri Besar on the dengue epidemic.

In my eighth email to Khir Toyo today, I said I wish to immediately comment on three points in his email reply, which includes my ninth question on the dengue epidemic, reserving a fuller response in my next email.

The three points from Khir Toyo's email reply which I commented are:

(1) Khir Toyo's disputing my statement that Selangor state is the worst affected dengue state, with the following response:

"As to the comment that Selangor State is the worst affected dengue state. It depends on how we want to interpret figures. Looking at absolute figures may seem so but if the commenter is a health profesional he should know that the most accurate comparison will be looking at the incidence rate. Taking the reported cases in Selangor as of last year to be 9,385 cases with a total population of 4.2 million the incidence rate is 223.45 per 100,000 population of which if compared to Wilayah Persekutuan as stated with 6,342 reported cases with a total population of 1.4 million, the incidence rate of WPKL is definitely much higher than Selangor i.e 453.0 per 100,000 population. Taking the confirmed cases only, the incidence rate of dengue in Selangor is 111.14 per 100,000 population."

Although Khir Toyo argues that Selangor has a lower incidence rate of dengue cases per 100,000 population, he had only strengthened my case that Selangor is the worst affected dengue state, on three out of four measures, i.e. the total number of dengue cases, the total number of dengue deaths, the incidence rate of dengue fatality per 100,000 population conceding the fourth measure to the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, which has a higher incidence rate of dengue cases per 100,000 population, as shown from the following:

Four measures of the Dengue Epidemic for 2002 till 28.12.2002

                                           Selangor                    WPKL

Total cases reported            9,385                     6,342

Incidence rate per
100,000 population            223.45                     453.0

No. of Reported death               15                            2

Incidence rate (death)
Per 100,000 population        0.357                    0.142


It is sad that the Selangor Mentri Besar should be quibbling about whether Selangor is the worst affected dengue state, when it is the worst in three out of four measures, but even more so, when there had been at least 15 totally unnecessary and avoidable deaths from dengue in the state last year.

(2) Khir Tojo said:

"The question is why the public could not care less in trying to cooperate with authorities concerned to eradicate or prevent Aedes breeding sites? Till a vaccination is available, there is no other means of controlling dengue besides eradicating and preventing Aedes breeding which is not only the responsibility of the authorities but also the general public!. We would feel grateful if your goodself could also assist in educating the people to prevent dengue."

I thanked Khir Tojo for his confidence and said:

"This was what I had been exerting my utmost almost daily for more than two months, until someone commented that I seemed to be only concerned about dengue. I fully agree that the government alone cannot bring the worst dengue epidemic under control, and that there must be full support and co-operation from the public.

"However a multi-prong nation-wide awareness, alert and dengue elimination campaign must be government-led, deploying all the resources of the state and mobilsing the support of the civil society and all sectors of the population, if it is to succeed.

"It is a fallacy to blame the worst dengue epidemic which is still raging unchecked on the public for their 'could not care less' attitude, as nobody could afford to adopt such a 'could not care less' attitude if the people are made fully aware of the danger to their own lives and those of their loved ones which is posed by the dengue epidemic.

"It is tragic and scandalous that nine months after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning to the governments in the region to take effective preventive measures in anticipation of a dengue epidemic as bad as the worst recorded epidemic in 1998 (and which has turned out to be a worse dengue epidemic for Malaysia), the majority of the people in Selangor and the country are still unaware of the gravity and lethal nature of the dengue outbreak - largely due to lack of information and a media blackout.

"This is why I am so angry with the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, who has time for the MCA A and B power struggle but no time to spearhead a nation-wide dengue epidemic awareness and alert campaign to eliminate all breeding grounds for the dengue-bearing aedes mosquitoes.

"This was the background to my chance encounter with the Health Minister at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Saturday, a person I had tried but failed to to meet for more than two months over the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history since mid-December.

"On Saturday, (22nd February), I was at the KLIA outside B3 Departure Lounge waiting for the departure of my flight to Sibu (MH 2714) at about 4.15 p.m. when a person came up to me and patted me at the back and greeted me. I looked and found it was none other than the Health Minister, who had been avoiding me for two months. He had disembarked from another flight and had to pass me to walk on to leave the departure concourse.

"I reciprocated the greeting and immediately asked him in Hokkien: "Why continue to stifle?" He pretended ignorance at what I was talking about, and when I said he should know that I was referring to the dengue epidemic, he responded by saying that "a lot of work is being done on the ground". I retorted that all this was of no good, as people continue to die, and that the radio and television are not being used to get the urgent message of the dengue epidemic out to the public. The Minister quickly walked away.

"If the Health Ministry had heeded our warnings more than two months ago to create nation-wide alert and awareness of the dengue epidemic, making full use of radio, television and the press, I believe over 30 unnecessary and avoidable deaths from dengue could have been prevented."

(3) Khir Tojo said:

"The comment that the Selangor State Government did not release figures is not true as last year all the current up to date figures were released at the Press Conference almost every 2 months following the Mesyuarat Bertindak Denggi Negeri chaired by Y.B. Dato' Tang See Hang and also after EXCO meetings. The figures of this year could not be publicly released as following the cabinet instruction."

In my response, I posed my ninth question to Khir Toyo on the dengue epidemic - whether he and and the Selangor Exco had protested and sought to overturn the Cabinet ban on release of information about the dengue epidemic this year in order to save lives and stop further unnecessary and avoidable deaths as Selangor is the worst dengue affected state.

In fact, in my sixth email and seventh question, I had asked Khir Toyo why the lives of Malaysians in the state had been sacrificed in the name of the 13th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Kuala Lumpur!

I am impressed with Khir Toyo's seriousness in responding to my emails on the worst dengue epidemic in the state.

I concluded my email to Khir Toyo today by urging him, in the interests of the welfare and lives of the people in Selangor as well as in the rest of the nation, to make an immediate and urgent representation to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to ask the Cabinet tomorrow to lift the completely unwarranted and unjustified ban on release of information about the dengue epidemic to the public - which is the first essential prerequisite if the worst dengue epidemic is to be brought under control and to end the long list of unnecessary and avoidable dengue deaths.

Khir Toyo's readiness to use and not just talk IT to carry out his official duties has put all the Cabinet Ministers to shame, for not a single Cabinet Minister had responded to me in my many emails to them on various important national issues in the past. I do not know whether the Cabinet Ministers were just rude or just IT-illiterate. The Cabinet meeting tomorrow should discuss the serious problem of IT-illiteracy of Cabinet Ministers whose emails are dead addresses and not the point of interaction with the Malaysian public, seven days a week and 24 hours a day.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman