Chua Jui Meng should personally apologise publicly for manipulating, minimizing and falsifying dengue cases and fatalities in the 2002 epidemic when he was Health Minister causing unnecessary sufferings and avoidable deaths while Chua Soi Lek should officially apologise on behalf of Health Ministry for a most black and disgraceful chapter in its history
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Saturday): The Health Ministry Disease Control Division Director Dr Ramlee Rahmat yesterday revealed for the first time the true statistics of the number of cases and fatalities during the dengue epidemic in 2002, when he reported that a total of 361 people died of dengue fever from 130,673 cases reported since 1999.
This is the first time Malaysians have been told that 99 people died from dengue in 2002, which recorded the highest number of dengue deaths for any year with 32,767 cases reported.
This is almost three times the number of dengue cases for 2002 given by the then Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, in Parliament on 11th March 2003, when he claimed that there had only been 11,394 dengue cases reported and 57 dengue deaths for the year 2002.
Chua Jui Meng should personally apologise publicly for manipulating, minimizing and falsifying dengue cases and fatalities in the 2002 epidemic when he was Health Minister causing unnecessary sufferings and avoidable deaths while the present Health Minister, Datuk Chua Soi Lek should officially apologise on behalf of the Health Ministry for a most black and disgraceful chapter in its history.
I am outraged because I feel cheated by Chua Jui Meng not for my own sake for the entire Malaysian citizenry, as at the end of 2002 and early January 2003, I had warned that the country was facing its worst dengue epidemic in the nation’s history and that the long list of unnecessary and avoidable dengue deaths was in the century region. I was accused of rumour and panic-mongering at the time, but I am now proved right – which gives me no pleasure but great sadness and anger.
At that time, I had tried to get the Health Minister and the Cabinet to declare a dengue epidemic to save lives and minimize avoidable dengue deaths. Instead of support, Chua Jui Meng sabotaged the dengue public awareness campaign by imposing a “gag” on the release of full and realtime data on dengue incidence and fatalities.
I was so angry with Chua Jui Meng and his irresponsibility that I had publicly called for his resignation and went to Suhakam twice in early 2003 to lodge two reports against the Health Minister’s flagrant violation of the most basic of human rights – the right to life – in the mishandling of the dengue epidemic, as well as the denial of the human rights to information and press freedom about dengue incidence and deaths.
Yesterday, Dr. Ramlee released the following statistics:
Malaysia: Number of dengue cases and deaths (1999-2005)
Year Cases Reported Deaths
1999 10,146 37
2000 7,146 45
2001 16,368 50
2002 32,767 99
2003 31,043 72
2004 33,203 58
2005 2,126 01
These dengue data is proof that Chua Jui Meng had told another lie in Parliament when on March 11, 2003, he had made the following statement in his attempt to rebut DAP allegations of the seriousness of the dengue outbreak: “Di Malaysia, sejak tahun 1997 sehingga 2002 purata kes dengi (demam denggi dan deman denggi berdarah) setahun adalah 8,364 kes dan kematian sebanyak 54 kes”.
We have data from the World Health Organisationh on the dengue situation in Malaysia for 1997 and 1998, namely:
Year Cases Reported Deaths
1997 19,544 50
1998 27,379 58
From these dengue data from 1997 to 2002, the annual average of dengue cases for the six-year period should be 18,892 cases and not 8,364 as Chua Jui Meng told Parliament in March 2003.
For misleading and downright lying in Parliament, and trying to play God with the lives and future of Malaysians, Chua Jui Meng should be referred to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee for proper punishment for a most gross abuse of parliamentary privileges and Ministerial irresponsibility.
However, the dengue data given by Dr. Ramlee is most disturbing, as it shows that the Health Ministry has not learnt from its unprofessional and disastrous blunder of 2002/3, despite the change of the Health Minister.
Dr. Chua Soi Lek should explain why he sounded the dengue alert so late when the statistics show that with 33,203 reported cases for 2004, it was an even worse dengue epidemic than 2002? It is fortunate that the number of fatalities last year was not on the scale of 2002 and 2003, but 58 deaths must be regarded as an unacceptable annual toll from dengue for Malaysia.
It is clear that the present Health Minister who took office after the March general election last year had also been guilty of negligence in the current dengue outbreak. I call on him to make immediate amends, and for a start, he should make public all available dengue data with regard to the number of dengue cases and fatalities on a week-by-week, state-by-state as well as hotspot-by-hotspot basis, for the whole of 2004, as well as for the present and the future.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman