DAP to lodge a third report to Suhakam on gross human rights violations
of Malaysians early next week if Health Minister does not launch an all-out
nation-wide awareness and alert deploying radio, television and the press to
bring the worst dengue epidemic under control with the end of the 13th NAM
Media Conference Statement (3)
by Lim Kit Siang
Wednesday): DAP will lodge a third
report to Suhakam on gross human rights violations of Malaysians early next
week if the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng does not launch an all-out
nation-wide awareness and alert deploying radio, television and the press to
bring the worst dengue epidemic under control with the end of the 13th
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit.
I do not hide my deep sense of frustration, outrage and even anger at 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 - with the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history
raging unchecked, with ever mounting rise in number of dengue cases and toll
of unnecessary and avoidable deaths from dengue.
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.
Since 18th February, I had sent eight emails to the Selangor Mentri Besar,
Datuk Seri Dr. Mohamad Khir Toyo, 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 a second email reply from Khir Toyo on Monday, which I am taking
the liberty of making public at this media conference as it is a matter of
urgent public importance.
In his email, Khir Toyo confirmed what head been open secret for quite some
time, that the Cabinet had imposed a ban on release of information on the
worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history, the number of dengue cases
and dengue fatalities because of the 13TH NAM Summit, and that such a
Cabinet ban was made at the request of Chua Jui Meng.
This it the height of irresponsibility, as it is tantamount to sacrificing
the welfare and even lives of Malaysians for the NAM Summit - as it is only
with timely, accurate and full information about the dengue epidemic that
there could be effective government-community campaign to bring the dengue
epidemic under control and end the long list of unnecessary and avoidable
In my reply to Khir Toyo yesterday, I had initially commented on three
points he had made, viz:
(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
Four measures of the Dengue Epidemic for 2002 till 28.12.2002
Total cases reported
Incidence rate per
No. of Reported death
Incidence rate (death)
Per 100,000 population 0.357
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
"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.
" "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 Toyo 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."
I am impressed with Khir Toyo's seriousness in responding to my emails on
the worst dengue epidemic in the state. I urged 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 today 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.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National