Families of the over 40 dengue fatalities in the last six months are entitled to sue both the Health Ministry and the Housing and local Government Ministry for compensation over  government  negligence in failing to launch a nation-wide dengue alert despite the WHO warning last July which could have saved lives or reduced deaths

Media Statement
Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): On the first day of the new year, Wednesday, 1st January 2003, two children died of  the virulent dengue disease, six-year-old boy Mohd Kamil Zulkifli from Indera Mahkota,  Kuantan and a two-year-old child from Kampung Manjoi,  Ipoh. 

Only the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng and  the Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Ong Ka Ting, who have been jointly made responsible by the Cabinet for the dengue outbreak,  can  tell Malaysians  how many dengue cases and fatalities occurred in the first three days of the new year!


Today’s Berita Harian carried the heart-rending report  of Mohd Wazir Ariffin, 43, from Kampung Sungai Kerayong, Taman Maluri, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur  who lost his two daughters, Siti Zalikha Mohd Wazir, 11 and Siti Zaharah, 13, within two days last Christmas because of dengue.


Up to now, Malaysians have not been given the full statistics of the total number of dengue cases and fatalities in the the virulent dengue outbreak last year, although it is known that there were at least 54 deaths by the end of the year, with over 40 deaths occurring in the second half of the year.


Both the Health and Housing/Local Government Ministries had been doubly negligent in the anti-dengue effort last year by  defeating the very purpose of making the dengue disease notifiable since 1973,  so that there could be effective disease surveillance to ensure a timely public health campaign  to check the  spread of the deadly communicable disease with the full support of the public.


When a disease is made “notifiable” under the law, every case has to be reported to the relevant health authorities by all hospitals, physicians, laboratories, and other persons knowing of or suspecting a case in accordance with the provision of the relevant statutes and regulations – which means that the government has  the latest daily update of the total number of dengue cases and deaths in each state.


In other countries like  Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, timely reports of the incidence of “notifiable diseases” are put on  websites which are accessible  to all concerned about public health, as for instance the Kent County in Michigan, USA, where the Monthly Communicable Disease Report is posted on its health website no later than the 15th of the month




or the “Notifiable Diseases Monthly Report” of the Population and Public Health Branch (PPHB) of Canada which gives reports by province on the website:




In Malaysia, however, these information about “notifiable diseases” like the virulent dengue outbreak last year concerning number of dengue cases and  fatalities, and their incidence according to age, gender, locality and ethnicity are all closely-guarded secrets under the Official Secrets Act as if their disclosures are even more dangerous than terrorist attacks and could threaten  the security and survival of Malaysia!


Furthermore, the websites of the Health Ministry and its various state public health departments, if they exist, are classic examples of expensive and elaborate “cobwebsites” which conceal rather than reveal information about public health and a sheer waste of public funds while totally irrelevant to the people’s needs.


In the past one month, I had issued ten media statements calling on the authorities to make public the statistics on the number of dengue  cases and fatalities with  a state-by-state and month-by-month breakdown for the whole of last year, but they all fell on deaf ears.  Three weeks ago, I sought a meeting with the Health Minister to raise my concern at the high number of dengue cases and deaths, particularly among young children, but Chua was too busy in his MCA Team A and Team B power struggle to have time to care about the mounting  avoidable dengue deaths.


It is really tragic that when the people were faced  last year with what could possibly be the  worst dengue year in the nation’s history – worse than in 1998 with 27,379 cases and 58 deaths – nobody really knew  which Minister was truly responsible for the anti-dengue counter measures to save lives and minimize human suffering – and this tragedy continues as the dengue outbreak rampages unabated.


On 13th December in Johore Bahru, Chua made a statement whose message was very clear – that it was  Ong Ka Ting as  Minister for Housing and Local Government who was more responsible for  the dengue outbreak.


Chua revealed that  the Cabinet recently instructed the Local Government Ministry “to take all the primary prevention efforts” as  72 per cent of dengue cases occurred in areas under the jurisdiction of local authorities while only 28 per cent of the dengue-affected areas were  under the responsibility of the Health Ministry or outside the jurisdiction of the local authorities.


Does this mean that the Housing and Local Government must bear 72% of the dengue cases, deaths and outbreak while the Health Ministry need only bear 28% responsibility?


The families of the over 40 dengue fatalities in the last six months are entitled to sue both the Health Ministry and the Housing and local Government Ministry for compensation over  the government  negligence in failing to launch a nation-wide dengue alert despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning last July of a dengue epidemic which could have saved lives or reduced deaths.


DAP is prepared to form a special dengue victims legal bureau  to  advise the bereaved families their legal rights and those interested  can seek the help of  DAP leaders, DAP elected representatives or DAP lawyers to contact  the DAP Dengue Victims  Legal Bureau.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman