Chua Jui Meng should apologise to Chinese press for his unfair and baseless attack on their coverage of SARS outbreak as he should be thanking them for forcing him to end the denial syndrome on SARS and avoid the catastrophic mistake committed by his Chinese counterpart before it was too late
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng should apologise to the Chinese press for his unfair and baseless attack on their coverage of the SARS outbreak as he should be thanking them for forcing him to end the denial syndrome on SARS and avoid the catastrophic mistake committed by his Chinese counterpart before it was too late.
Chua’s attack was both gratuitous and ungrateful, for the Chinese press had saved him from the fate of the Chinese Health Minister, Zhang Wenkang and Beijing mayor Meng Xuenong who were sacked when the Chinese authorities woke up to the fact that the “cover-up” of the outbreak of the new virus killer had confronted China with an international credibility crisis even worse than the Tiananmen Square in 1989.
To be fair, it is not just the Chinese press but all language press, including Bahasa Malaysia or English media, as well as the electronic press, which also deserve credit for their single-minded pressure for transparency on the SARS outbreak in the country, on the ground that people’s lives are more important than any other consideration.
It is an act of cowardice on Chua’s part that at a SARS briefing for corporate leaders on Monday, the Health Minister criticized the Chinese press but dared not include the English and Bahasa Malaysia press in his attack although they had made even fiercer warnings to Chua not to repeat the mistakes of cover-ups of other disease outbreaks, whether coxsackie, nipah or the current dengue epidemic.
In fact, the other reason why there is a credibility problem about the Health Ministry’s handling of the SARS outbreak is precisely because of Chua’s history of not being fully open, frank and transparent about other disease outbreaks.
Even now, there is a full-scale cover-up of the worst dengue epidemic in the nation’s history, with Chua playing with semantics instead of telling the people the truth. Is Chua prepared to completely come clean with all the facts about the current dengue epidemic, the month-by-month and state-by-state data on dengue cases and fatalities since the World Health Organisation (WHO) global dengue warning last July – which will go a long way to dispel doubts and reservations as to whether Chua is capable of full disclosure and transparency on the SARS outbreak.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman