Chua Jui Meng, who should be censured in Parliament for a most dishonest and unsatisfactory answer on the dengue epidemic, should withdraw his preposterous allegation against me or face a one-to-one “Tell and Clear All” session to get to the bottom of the dengue epidemic
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Wednesday): In the first sitting of Dewan Rakyat yesterday, the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng answered in one-go nine questions on the worst dengue epidemic in the nation’s history which had been submitted by Barisan Nasional, DAP and PAS MPs for the current 17-day meeting of Parliament.
This was the height of parliamentary irresponsibility, as it did a grave injustice to an issue which should be accorded topmost priority in Parliament as it concerns the most fundamental right of all Malaysians – the right to life - as the dengue epidemic which is still raging unchecked has caused the most number of dengue cases and dengue deaths in the country and is still causing unnecessary and avoidable deaths – with Chua admitting for the first time that there had been 11 dengue deaths this year till February 22, which I believe seriously errs on the low side.
Although Chua gave a 11-page reply, it was impossible for him in one answer to address the various aspects of the dengue epidemic which had been raised in the nine parliamentary questions. Furthermore, in answering all nine dengue questions in one-go, Chua also denied MPs the opportunity the put 18 supplementary questions to elicit further information – on the basis of the common practice of two supplementary questions to an answer if the question gets to be asked during the daily parliamentary question-and-answer hour.
As an example, the DAP MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw had a question on dengue yesterday, which asked the Health Minister “to state the number of confirmed dengue cases and deaths every year since 1997, what is the situation in every state”. This question was not answered at all, as Chua could escape the detailed parliamentary scrutiny of nine separate parliamentary questions by lumping them together and giving a general overall reply – which is not calculated to enhance either Ministerial accountability and competence or parliamentary effectiveness.
Chua should be censured in Parliament for a most dishonest and unsatisfactory answer on the worst dengue epidemic in the nation’s history, withdraw his preposterous allegation against me or face a one-to-one “Tell and Clear All” session with me to get to the bottom of the dengue epidemic.
I will in my initial response today to Chua’s parliamentary reply and attack on me yesterday refer to four points raised by him.
Firstly, Chua implied that I had “lied” in making a false accusation that the Health Ministry had ignored the World Health Organisation (WHO) alert on the dengue epidemic last July.
Chua said that based on Health Ministry records, it did not receive any “written warning” issued by the WHO office in Kuala Lumpur or the WHO Western Pacific region based in Manila on the dengue alert. He even got a “written admission” from the WHO representative in Kuala Lumpur dated Feb 24 which explained that WHO never issued such a warning.
In going to such a length to extract a “written admission” by the WHO KL office, which had to humour him, Chua had only exposed the Health Ministry to international ridicule and subjected the country to enormous embarrassment, for if the Health Minister had devoted similar energies to battle the worst dengue epidemic in the nation’s history, there would not be so many dengue cases and such a high toll of unnecessary and avoidable deaths!
In continuing to maintain “ignorance” about the WHO alert of a possible dengue pandemic last July, Chua had only undermined the good name and professionalism of the Health Ministry.
I only need refer him to two Internet reports about the WHO dengue warning last July, one from the Utusan Malaysia Online and the other from the ENN (Environmental News Network). The Utusan Malaysia Online quoted an AP report from Geneva dated July 29, 2002, with the heading “WHO issues dengue fever warning”, and which reads:
The ENN item is available at the following URL:
Datelined Geneva on July 30, 2002, the Associated Press report quoted Dr. Mike Nathan on the increasing risks from the potentially fatal mosquito-borne dengue disease, which affects 100 countries across Africa, the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, southeast Asia, and the western Pacific.
Nathan said “Countries declare a state of emergency when the disease is upon them, but that’s really too late. In most countries, lots of money gets thrown at an epidemic, but not in the intervening period.”
It also contained the sombre warning in the following paragraph:
The Health Ministry may be forgiven for not accessing the ENN item, but can it be so IT-literate and media-backward that it does not access local media coverage when it reported the WHO warning last July of a possible dengue pandemic in the region, including Malaysia?
The killer Aedes aegypti mosquito do not wait for “black and white” authority before they bite, spread dengue and kill lives. Why should Chua demand “black and white” warning from the WHO office in KL before heeding the WHO dengue alert issued by Geneva last July to minimize suffering and save lives in Malaysia?
Secondly, Chua’s dishonest manipulation with statistics to downplay the gravity of the worst dengue epidemic currently raging in the country.
Chua said in his parliamentary answer:
In claiming that there were 13,742 reported dengue cases in 1998, Chua was going against official WHO data which reported 27,379 dengue cases and 58 deaths. It also went against what Chua himself had said on public record some three years ago and which was reported in all the local press on 29th April 1999 about the 20-fold increase in dengue cases from 1986 to 1998, when “there were only 1,408 cases with eight deaths in 1986 but 12 years down the line, the number had spiraled to 27,373 cases with 58 deaths”.
If the Health Minister can take such liberties with statistics, going against what he himself had publicly said three years ago on the same matter, who can ever believe him when he talks about facts and figures?
Thirdly, Chua claims that for 2002 last year, there were 11,394 dengue cases and 57 deaths. This is direct contradiction of the admission by the Selangor Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Dr. Mohamad Khir Toyo in his email to me dated February 24 that as of 28th December last year, there were 9,385 reported dengue cases in Selangor state.
Khir Toyo’s email confirmed the veracity of the table published by Sin Chew Daily (22.1.03), which reported for the first time the figure of 9,385 dengue cases in Selangor , that there were 32,289 dengue cases country-wide last year as of 28th December 2002, with the following state-by-state breakdowns:
With the great difference in the figures of 32,289 reported dengue cases last year (up to 28.12.02) and Chua’s figure of 11,394 cases given in Parliament yesterday, Malaysians must ask why Chua is again engaged in another major cover-up after the previous Nipah virus and Coxsackie epidemic cover-ups, which also caused enormous suffering and great human toll.
Thirdly, Chua said that there were 11 dengue deaths this year till 22nd February 2003. He has lost all credibility with statistics, and he should give a full detailed list of the dengue fatalities last year and this year, giving names, locality and date of death, for a verification as to whether they tally with the full toll of dengue deaths in the current dengue epidemic.
Fourthly, Chua alleged that I was trying to spring a “political trap” for him and to “shame” Malaysia with the approach of the 13th NAM Summit by raising the alarm about the dengue epidemic and dengue deaths.
This is a most unworthy and preposterous allegation, and I demand its unconditional withdrawal and his apology for the despicable imputation and insinuation. I am as concerned as anyone in the government that the 13th NAM Summit should be a success, but I cannot agree that any human life should be sacrificed to ensure the success of any conference. Such things only take place in countries with “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality”!
Chua should be censured in Parliament for a most dishonest and unsatisfactory answer on the dengue epidemic and he should withdraw his preposterous allegation against me. Alternatively, he should be prepared to have face a one-to-one “Tell and Clear All” session to get to the bottom of the dengue epidemic, in the presence of the media and concerned public.
I am giving Chua up to the end of this week to agree to a one-to-one session to establish the real truth about the dengue epidemic. I had in fact sought a meeting with Chua three months ago over the dengue epidemic, but he had been avoiding me all these months except for a chance and brief encounter at the KLIA last month. If Chua is not prepared to accept my challenge to a one-to-one “Tell and Clear All” session by end of this week, I am prepared to go to Parliament early next week to give a full briefing to Members of Parliament about Chua;s irresponsible mishandling of the dengue epidemic.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman