Spate of mishaps and scandals in the first two weeks of the new year should sound the alarm that there is not only no better and more effective government delivery system as promised by Pak Lah, but Malaysia runs the risk of turning the clock back in efficiency, accountability, transparency and integrity
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The spate of mishaps and scandals in the first two weeks of the new year should sound the alarm that there is not only no better and more effective government delivery system as promised by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, but Malaysia runs the risk of turning the clock back in efficiency, accountability, transparency and integrity if urgent and radical action is not taken to stop the rot.
Whether on health, education, basic utilities like power and water, human rights, good governance, things have started to go wrong one after another in the short span of the first half-month of the new year, such as the belated sounding of the dengue epidemic alert after the most number of dengue cases last year, a five-hour five-state power outage, the crisis of the human right of Malaysians to access to affordable and quality water, the scandalous incident of the trigger-happy enforcement officer of the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry injuring a VCD peddler in Penang with his firearm, unabated corruption, etc.
I will just comment on three items:
(1) Dengue outbreak
Unknown to Malaysians, last year 2004 saw the worst dengue epidemic in the nationís history with 33,203 dengue cases, although the number of dengue deaths at 58 fatalities was not as bad as 99 and 72 for 2002 and 2003 respectively, as illustrated by the following data for the past 14 years from 1991 Ė 2004:
Malaysia: Number of dengue cases and deaths (1999-2005)
Year Cases Reported Deaths
1991 6,628 39
1992 5,473 24
1993 5,615 23
1994 3,133 13
1995 6,543 28
1996 14,255 30
1997 19,544 50
1998 27,379 58
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
Grave issues of efficiency of the government delivery system, accountability, transparency and good governance cry out for answer, in particular:
(i) Why did the Health Minister, Datuk Dr. Chua Soi Lek take so long to sound the nation-wide dengue epidemic alert, which was made only on January 7, 2005, one week in the new year after 2004 had recorded the worst number of dengue cases in the nationís history. Why had the new Health Minister and the top Health Ministry officials responsible for public health been so unprofessional as to sleep on their job last year, utterly indifferent and unconcerned that the country was undergoing its worst dengue epidemic in the number of reported dengue cases, although the dengue fatalities was the third worst year after 2002 and 2003?
(ii) Why did the former Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng mislead Parliament and the nation two years ago in manipulating and minimizing the actual gravity of the dengue epidemic which started from the second half of 2002, when it was the worst dengue epidemic in the nationís history at the time, both in the number of dengue cases and dengue deaths? There were 32,767 dengue cases and 99 deaths in 2003 but Chua Jui Meng deliberately misled Parliament on March 11, 2002 when he said during question-time that there were only 11,394 dengue cases and 57 dengue deaths in 2002.
With such a disgraceful history in the mishandling of the dengue epidemic year after year, how can the Malaysian public continue to have trust and confidence in Ministry of Health and its Minister to be responsible for the health and welfare of the Malaysian population?
(2) Pak Lahís campaign against corruption has been turned into a farce and joke by the five Sarawak deputy ministers
All the five Sarawak Federal deputy ministers have denied that they had been investigated by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) since last November under Section 11(a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1997, as revealed by the outgoing Sarawak ACA director Mohd Jamidan Abdullah on Tuesday.
The five deputy ministers from Sarawak at the federal level are Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum (Foreign Affairs), Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew (Housing and Local Government), Datuk Dr Tiki Lafe (Rural and Regional Development), Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas (Transport) and Joseph Entulu Belaun (Prime Ministerís Department).
Douglas Uggah Embas had announced that the five Sarawak deputy ministers will meet in Parliament during the special sitting tomorrow to discuss their next course of action as they are all incensed by the ACA for its revelation, but none of them seemed to be concerned or incensed that one of them is being investigated for corruption and that this deputy minister should own up publicly of being investigated by the ACA.
It would appear that none of the five Sarawak deputy ministers is aware of the National Integrity Plan and the importance of political leaders particularly those in government to set an example of integrity and incorruptibility.
The episode of the five Sarawak deputy finance ministers all denying that they are being investigated by the ACA despite the reiteration by the ACA that one of them is under ACA investigation has turned Abdullahís campaign against corruption into a farce and a joke. Now, one of the five Sarawak deputy minister is also telling a public lie.
Abdullah should salvage and restore public confidence in the seriousness of his administrationís campaign against corruption by ending the farce of the five Sarawak Federal Deputy Ministers by announcing the identity of the Sarawak deputy minister under ACA probe and who had told a public lie, and declare what he proposes to do with the deputy minister who is now guilty of a public lie on top of being under ACA investigation.
(3) Grave risks and dangers arising from Barisan Nasionalís nine-tenth parliamentary majority
The two-day special sitting of Parliament beginning tomorrow highlights the grave risks and dangers arising from Barisan Nasionalís nine-tenth parliamentary majority, resulting in the weakest opposition check-and-balance in the nationís history.
This is the first time in the 47-year history of the country that the Federal Constitution is being amended whereby the federal-state constitutional relationship is being recast without complying with the constitutional provisions protecting state prerogative powers. The Bill violates Article 76(1)© which limits the power of the Federal Government and Parliament to trespass and transgress on prerogative powers of state governments Ė in this case, water jurisdiction - without first getting the consent by way of request of the state legislative assemblies.
I urge the Prime Minister to support the DAP proposal to refer the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 to a Select Committee before a second reading vote by Parliament to allow for detailed study and extensive public consultation, particularly on water privatization and the federalization of water management, and most important of all, compliance with Article 76(1)© for request to Parliament for the constitutional amendment to be made by the State Legislative Assemblies.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman