Both the Health and Education Ministers should explain why there was a cover-up of the death of two UPM students because of meningitis last month


Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): Both the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng and the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad should explain why there was a cover-up of the death of two Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) students  in Selangor last month after contracting meningitis until it was unearthed by Malaysiakini yesterday. 

The death of two UPM students should have been made public at the first available opportunity  to give UPM students accurate information as well as alert the people  about the  deaths and outbreak of the infectious disease. 

Up to now, the UPM authorities had not issued any statement and the UPM undergraduates had to  learn about the deaths through the campus grapevine, although third-year computer science student Loy Cheah Kee died on June 27 while third-year diploma in agriculture student D. Thivagarajan died two days later.  Loy,  23, from Alor Setar, Kedah and Thiyagarajan, 23, from Mentakab, Pahang died in their rented homes in Taman Bukit Serdang and Taman Balakong Jaya respectively.

Meningitis is an infectious disease which affects the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis which spreads via an infected patientís oral droplets and nose. The incubation period is between three and four days. Those infected will experience fever, nausea, intense headache and stiffness of neck.

It was after Malaysiakini came out with an exclusive report yesterday about the two deaths from meningitis that the Health director-general Dr. Mohamad Taha Arif came out with a statement late yesterday, announcing that the Health Ministry had deployed an investigation and health control team to monitor the health situation in UPM in the past 12 days.

Because of the lateness of the hour of the release of Mohamadís statement, it was  either not reported in this morningís print media or relegated insignificant space in the inside pages Ė when it should be front page news about the death of two promising students from  one of the public universities!

The Health Ministry, the Education Ministry and in particular UPM had acted most irresponsibly in the cover-up of the two student meningitis deaths for the past 12 days, admitting the tragedy only when enterprising journalists unearthed the story.

Both Chua Jui Meng and Musa Mohamad should give a categorical assurance that there will be no repeat of such cover-ups of public tragedies, and that both Ministries will revamp their information policies which are clearly inconsistent with good governance upholding the principles of openness, accountability and transparency and in an information era!

Chua Jui Meng should come out with a detailed statement about the two student deaths, the measures which had been taken to protect the UPM undergraduate population and the people in Taman Bukit Serdang and Taman Balakong Jaya  from the meningitis infection and the cause of such an outbreak.

(9/7/2002)


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman