DAP commends UMNO Youth  and calls on youth organizations of all political parties, whether  the ruling coalition or the Opposition, to take an united  stand in the national interest to demand an immediate  halt and full  accountability for the over 40 dengue deaths in the past six months despite WHO warning last July

Media Statement
Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): DAP commends UMNO Youth for calling on the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng and the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Ong Ka Ting to reduce their involvement in the internal MCA power struggle and concentrate on their Ministerial duties and the people’s interests, in particular to bring under control the virulent dengue outbreak which had claimed the lives of over 40 people in the past six months. 

Utusan Malaysia in a front-page  report today,  headlined  “Pemuda gesa Chua, Ong tumpu isu denggi”, states:


“KUALA LUMPUR 2 Jan. - Pergerakan Pemuda UMNO hari ini menggesa Menteri Kesihatan, Datuk Chua Jui Meng dan Menteri Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting mengurangkan penglibatan dengan politik dalaman MCA sebaliknya memberi lebih tumpuan pada tugas masing-masing.


“Naib Ketuanya, Datuk Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir berkata, tumpuan yang lebih kepada politik kepartian menyebabkan mereka kurang memberi perhatian kepada tanggungjawab sebenar berkaitan kepentingan rakyat seperti menangani masalah denggi, yang telah meragut 40 nyawa sejak enam bulan lepas.


“’Sekiranya terlalu sibuk dengan perkara-perkara lain seperti isu dalaman MCA, lebih baik mereka menceburi kerjaya lain (bukan menteri),' katanya kepada Utusan Malaysia ketika dihubungi hari ini.”


This is the first positive and constructive statement  by Abdul Aziz  as UMNO Youth deputy leader, and I call on youth organizations of all political parties, whether  the ruling coalition or the Opposition, to take an united  stand in the national interest to demand an immediate  halt and full  accountability for the over 40  dengue fatalities in the past six months despite the July warning of the World Health Organisation (WHO).


The campaign which the DAP has been waging for the past month to demand an effective anti-dengue strategy and an end to the  campaign of misinformation about the incidence of dengue cases and fatalities lulling Malaysians into complacency about the lethal outbreak is not a political one  but a national issue affecting  the people’s welfare and human lives, regardless of race, religion, locality or political affiliation.


This was why I had announced yesterday that the DAP was  sending a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad calling for the suspension of Chua as Minister for Health  and Ong as Minister for Housing and Local Government for their failure to heed the  WHO warning in July  to take effective anti-dengue measures, resulting in the loss of over 40 lives in the past six months, as well as for the campaign of misinformation about the incidence of dengue cases and fatalities.


I hope that the youth wings of other Barisan Nasional component parties, whether MCA Youth (A or B), Gerakan Youth or MIC Youth, could take a leaf from UMNO Youth to adopt a clear public stand on the unnecessary and avoidable loss of scores of human lives in the current dengue outbreak.


It would be ideal if the youth  organizations of all political parties, whether the  ruling coalition or the Opposition, could convene a round-table conference to demand an immediate halt and full accountability for the over 40 dengue deaths  in the past six months to show Malaysians that whatever their political differences, they could act in unison  for  the common interest and welfare  of the people.


Malaysians are still waiting for a full explanation from Chua and Ong as to how they could allow the dengue outbreak to get so out of hand that the 11 dengue deaths in the first six months of last year spiralled to 54 deaths by the end of the year (which is not the final figure as of  Dec. 31 of the year)  – or  an increase of  at least 43 fatalities in the past six months despite the severe warning on dengue fever  by WHO  last July.


In issuing the dengue  warning from Geneva last  July, the WHO disease-control specialist Dr. Mike Nathan said: “Countries declare a state of emergency when the disease is upon them, but that’s really too late. In most affected countries, lots of money get thrown at an epidemic, but not in the intervening period.”


Malaysia seems to be in a special category of its own, when an epidemic is denied although there had been  at least 54 deaths last year  or four short of the worst dengue year in 1998 which claimed 58 lives, when a full epidemic was declared.


This is why the statement by the parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Health, S. Solinathan on Monday that there was nothing to worry as the dengue outbreak has not reached an epidemic although 54 people had died was so  irresponsible, shocking and outrageous raising questions about his fitness to hold his present office.


Can Chua publicly explain how many more people must die from the current dengue outbreak before the Health Ministry is prepared to declare a dengue epidemic?


Chua is fully mistaken if the reason for the campaign of misinformation to mislead Malaysians about the severity of the dengue outbreak is fear of frightening away foreign tourists, as in this era of information technology, foreign missions are better informed than Malaysians about the actual health situation (as well as other matters like the terrorist threat and media blackout)  in the country.


The country brief on Malaysia issued by Trade New Zealand under the auspices of the  New Zealand Trade Commisioner dated July 2002, for instance, has the following information about “health risks” in Malaysia –

“Dengue Fever Warning


“A number of Asian countries appear to be facing a dengue fever epidemic. Dhaka (Bangadesh), Kaosiung (Taiwan), and Kuala Lumpur  (Malaysia) appear to be worst hit, but the disease is also prevalent in Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam.”


From these advisories, it is clear that foreigners knew as far back as last July  that there was a dengue epidemic in the country, except for Malaysians, who are still told after at least 54 deaths last year that the dengue outbreak has not reached an epidemic!


DAP is preparing the memorandum to the Prime Minister calling for the suspension of  Chua and Ong as Ministers for their negligence, irresponsibility,  incompetence and mishandling of the virulent  dengue outbreak despite the WHO warning last July, because we also want action to be taken  against government officers who had either  taken part in the campaign of misinformation or had failed to sufficiently impress on the public about the seriousness of the dengue outbreak.


For instance, the Selangor deputy health director (public health), Dr. Rahimah Mohd Ariffin was reported as saying that as of September 7, 2002, 5,189 dengue cases had been reported in the state of which 298 were dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) cases. (NST 13.9.2002).


However, more than three months later, Rahiman reported a very  much lower rate  of incidence of dengue outbreak in the state when he told the Berita Harian (28.12.2002) that as of  21st December 2002 , there were  3,310 dengue cases out of which 157 were DHF cases.  What is the reason for this drastic drop  of figures between 5,189 dengue cases as of Sept. 7 and 3,310 cases on December 21?


Johore provides another blatant example of mishandling of the dengue outbreak.  There was no public report about dengue deaths in Johore from any official source for the whole year, until the shocking  NST report yesterday of 20 deaths in the state for the whole year!  Why wasn’t the people informed of the rising dengue fatalities in the state so that effective preventive action could have been taken to cut down the final death toll?


In January 2002, Johore Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman had boasted about the success of the dengue control and prevention programme using the  “Communication for Behavioural Impact” (Combi) approach, which is sanctioned by the WHO,  in Johore Bahru the previous year, but in the dengue outbreak last year  catapulting Johore to the top of the national chart with the  highest fatality at 20, Johore Bahru tops the state as the worst aedes-infested area.  Who should be held responsible for the 20 dengue deaths in Johore last year when there were only 12 deaths in the previous year?



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman