Health Ministry website is a classic case of expensive and elaborate government "cobwebsite" which conceals rather than reveals information to the people about public health - making nonsense of both objective and expenses of e-government

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): The Health Ministry website,, is a classic case of an expensive and elaborate government "cobwebsite" which conceals rather than reveals information to the people about public health - making nonsense of both the objective and the vast sums of taxpayers' money spent on e-government.

Although the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng and other public officials have admitted that there is a rise in the number of cases of dengue fever compared to the past few years, with signs that the dengue outbreak for 2002 is so serious that it might either match or exceed the number of cases and deaths in the country's worst dengue outbreak in 1998 with 27,378 cases and 58 fatalities, the public have continued to be kept in the dark about the actual number of cases and deaths on a state-by-state and month-by-month basis this year.

The Ministry of Health website should be where the public could get some information and advice about the dengue outbreak but any visitor to the Health Ministry "cobwebsite" will draw a complete blank as if the country is not facing a major dengue outbreak with fatalities rising to the 1998 level. The visitor to the Health Ministry "cobwebsite" would also waste a lot of time trying to navigate its various links which are either dead links or contain "dead" information of no current value.

The public health departments of the four states with the most serious dengue outbreak, i.e. Selangor, Federal Territory, Perak and Johore, though listed on the Health Ministry "cobwebsite", are not on-line and are therefore of no help or use whatsoever.

The Health Ministry provides no information of its own on the dengue outbreak on its own home-page, and the only information available is the link to the bulletin of the World Health Organization (Western Pacific Region) - last revised on 12 September 2002 - which reported the increase in the number of dengue cases "in nearly all the region's endemic countries, although not to the high levels of 1998". It noted however that "In 2002, high incidence has been reported in Selangor, Malaysia". As for the data for the crucial months of September, October and November, none is available.

Since the DAP sounded the alarm last week at the severe dengue outbreak with the high incidence of cases and deaths this year and made the call for a nation-wide alert, we have received reports that there has been a continued rise in the reported number of dengue cases particularly with children in a very serious state on admission to hospitals - which is symptomatic of a lack of public awareness of the dengue outbreak not only among parents and the public but even among the general practitioners.

With the fatalities from the dengue outbreak nearing if not already exceeding the half century figure, I call on the health authorities to launch a high-impact media campaign to create nation-wide alert and awareness of the virulent dengue outbreak to stop the loss of any more loss of human lives, especially children who have suffered the most fatalities as compared to previous years.

Chua Jui Meng should explain whether the Health Ministry's "information" policy not to inform rather than to be frank with a regular update of the state-by-state and month-by-month figures of the dengue cases and deaths is for fear of frightening off tourists from Malaysia - and if so, the Health Ministry should realize before it is too late that this is not only a most irresponsible policy, but self-defeating one, resulting in the creation of a serious public credibility gap, both national and international, which is not conducive to maintaining public and international confidence in the government.

The time has come for Chua to host a Tell-All media conference about the serious dengue outbreak in the country this year.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman