How did the dengue fatalities jump from five in the third week to 13 in the fourth week, when the Health Ministry claims that there is only an increase of four dengue cases for the week?
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Saturday): Those who have been following closely the dengue epidemic in the country must have been shocked by the sudden announcement of 13 dengue deaths for the first four weeks of the year, when the previous Thursday, Health Ministry’s Diseases Control Division Director Dr. Ramlee Rahmat reported five dengue deaths in the first three weeks of the year.
If Dr. Ramlee is right, then there was a sharp increase of eight dengue deaths in the fourth week of the year, but Dr. Ramlee yesterday reported four cases of dengue deaths in the fourth week, three of them in Selangor and one in Negri Sembilan.
The Health Ministry should explain how the dengue fatalities jump from five in the third week to 13 in the fourth week, when it also claims that there was only an increase of four dengue deaths for the week – which should bring to the total number of dengue deaths for the first four weeks of the year to nine and not 13. Is the Health Ministry just suffering from a bad attack of awful arithmetics or is there something more serious affecting the Health Ministry’s information policy at work?
I reproduce below the Bernama reports on the dengue fatalities in the past two Thursdays:
Malaysians have developed a very cautious and even wary attitude towards official facts and figures particularly those given by Ministers, as they have often been found to have no relationship with the truth. It will be a sad day for government credibility if Malaysians also come to doubt fact and figures given by public officials who should have no political axes to grind.
Let me give an illustration. On 11th March 2003, the then Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng told Parliament that there had only been 11,394 dengue cases and 57 dengue deaths for the year 2002, when there were actually 32,767 dengue cases and 99 dengue deaths in 2002 as reported by Dr. Ramlee himself on 14th January 2005.
During the emergency debate on the dengue epidemic during the special sitting of Parliament on January 18, 2005, I had queried the contradiction in the dengue deaths for 2004 that was being given in the House by the Health Minister, Datuk Dr. Chua Soi Lek, who mentioned 67 dengue deaths in 2004, when four days earlier, Dr. Ramlee had cited 58 dengue deaths for 2004.
In response, Dr. Chua said:”Saya ingat ini tidak ada perbezaan angka. Angka yang saya petik ini adalah laporan daripada Dr. Ramlee. Mungkin ada kesilapan dalam catatan atau tersiar dalam akhbar atau kesilapan daripada Yang Berhormat apabila baca surat khabar.” (Hansard)
I have check the newspapers of 15th January 2005, which quoted Dr. Ramlee as citing 58 dengue deaths for 2004.
If public officials continue to be very cavalier about facts and figures, making a habit of being very economical or even being most creative with facts and figures, then the government has only itself to blame if it increasingly suffers from a yawning credibility gap with regard to information emanating from official sources.
I hope Dr. Chua and Dr. Ramlee can immediately put to rest the various contradictions on dengue cases and fatalities all originating from the Health Ministry.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman