Call on Cabinet on Wednesday to lift the ban on information on dengue cases and fatalities and to direct the Health Ministry, the various state governments and local authorities to give weekly updates as the most effective way to create and maintain public awareness to prevent recurrence of the deadly dengue epidemic last year
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Monday): Last month, both Singapore and Hong Kong authorities warned the danger of the return of the dangerous dengue fever, although it had not been as sensational as the SARS outbreak. In Singapore the number of dengue cases almost doubled in just one week – when 96 people came down with the fever between May 11 and 17, up from 56 cases the week before.
With the hot weather brought on by El Nino, the mosquitoes are breeding more and carrying more virulent viruses.
What is the position of the dengue fever in Malaysia? Nobody knows – because the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, had in January secured a Cabinet ban on all information on dengue cases and fatalities as if it is a grave national security threat, and anyone who receives, possesses, communicates or uses such information would have committed an offence under the Official Secrets Act punishable with a mandatory minimum sentence of one year jail on conviction! Only Chua reserves to himself the sole right and power to release any such information about dengue cases and fatalities in Malaysia!
As a result, the previous practice of the various state governments and local authorities releasing regular figures about the incidence of dengue cases and fatalities in their respective areas had been stopped altogether, and the last time Malaysians had information about the dengue situation was on 11th March this year, when Chua told Parliament during question time that there had been 3,410 cases and 11 deaths this year till February 22 – which I had said erred seriously on the low side.
The Malaysian public have no information whatsoever about the dengue situation in the past three months, which is the height of public irresponsibility which cannot be excused because of the more sensational SARS outbreak scare.
Furthermore, it is the most powerful proof that the Cabinet is sometimes the root cause of the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise which Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had so brilliantly diagnosed as a main obstacle to Malaysia achieving full developed nation status – as it is further proof of the absence of the proper mindset necessary if Malaysia is to take the quantum leap to become a K-economy and information society.
Why should Malaysians only get information about the dengue outbreak when Parliament meets and the Health Minister is asked about it during question-time – which is a most primitive way of handling information in the information age.
DAP calls on the Cabinet on Wednesday to lift the ban on information on dengue cases and fatalities and to direct the Health Ministry, the various state governments and local authorities to give weekly updates about the dengue situation which is the most effective way to create and maintain public awareness to prevent the recurrence of the deadly dengue epidemic last year which claimed more than a hundred lives.
This should be accompanied by the full mobilization of the mass media, whether printed or electronic, to drum home the basic do’s and don’ts to every citizen, young or old, of how to combat the dengue menace.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman