Chua Jui Meng should learn from the lessons of the Nipah and Coxsackie B virus epidemics and  not a commit a trio of disastrous handling of disease outbreaks in his tenure as Health Minister

Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Malacca, Wednesday): The outright denials by the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng that there is an outbreak of the meningitis killer disease and worse, that there is a nation-wide meningococcal meningitis alert by the Health Ministry two days after it was given front-page headline publicity in the Sunday newspapers is the height of irresponsibility and do not inspire public confidence in the ability and professionalism of  the Health Ministry to protect the Malaysian public from killer diseases and epidemics. 

I had on Monday asked Chua to  explain why the Health Ministry through the Health director-general Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Taha Arif had  issued a nation-wide meningococcal meningitis alert only after three deaths in two weeks – the deaths of two Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) students in Selangor, Loy Cheah Kee, 23, and  D. Thiyagarajah, 23 on June 27 and 29 respectively, and of UiTM mass communications student, Kasnita Mohd Kassim, 29, in Shah Alam last Friday. 

Instead of explaining, Chua has chosen to deny that there was such a “national alert” – 48 hours after it was reported in the Sunday national press.  If there was no such  meningitis “national alert”, Chua should have denied it on Sunday itself instead of waiting for 48 hours! 

Chua’s attempt to downplay the meningitis outbreak by claiming that there was only a meningitis-linked death is most irresponsible.  If there is no meningitis outbreak, why have over 600 UPM students been screened for the killer bacterial disease in the past fortnight, and why has the UiTM offered meningitis vaccination for its students at its health centre, at RM10 per jab – when efforts should have been taken to ensure that nobody is allowed to profiteer from the meningitis outbreak and the vaccinations at UiTM should have been offered free of charge, or at nominee fee to the students. 

Chua should stop playing games with the lives and health of Malaysian, and he  should learn from the lessons of the Nipah and Coxsackie B virus epidemics and  not a commit a trio of disastrous handling of disease outbreaks in his tenure as Health Minister. 

The Nipah outbreak in 1999, which killed over a hundred people and  destroyed the livelihood of thousands of people,  was Chua’s most notorious mishandling of a disease  outbreak.  But earlier in 1997, there was the Coxsackie B virus outbreak which killed 41 mostly babies in Sarawak.  In both these cases, Chua had been claiming that the situation was under control despite the rising toll of lives  killed by the epidemic. 

Chua’s outright denials only reinforce public disquiet at an official cover-up of the meiningitis outbreak, especially as Kasnita might not have died if there had been a nation-wide alert of the meningitis outbreak immediately after the death of two UPM students some two weeks earlier. 

I had on Monday asked about the  two earlier deaths because of meningitis in March this year  and Chua should answer why he is avoiding the issue, or why Parliament was never informed about the two primary school pupils in Kuching who died of  meningitis in March, whether during the  March/April  or the June meeting of the Dewan Rakyat. 

Is Chua too busy with the MCA power struggle (which has gone underground) to do a competent job as Health Minister?


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman