Dengue epidemic with over 72 deaths last year and at least four deaths in first two weeks of this year - DAP to convene a roundtable conference of all political parties/professional groups/civic organizations/NGOs/mass media in Kuala Lumpur next Wednesday to prevent more avoidable deaths of Malaysians particularly urban Malays

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The DAP homepage,, and the website for my media statements,, asked the question "Dengue outbreak - how many more people must die before nation-wide alert?" when I warned in my media statement dated 16th December 2002 that with Nanyang Siang Pau's front-page headline report the previous day of some 40 deaths from the dengue epidemic in the first ten months of the year, the country was heading for an even worse dengue year than 1998, which reported 27,379 cases and 58 deaths - the worst in the nation's history.

Tragically, my worst fears have been proved right.

Those who follow my media statements on the dengue epidemic in the past month will notice the unique spectacle of my attempt to track the rise in number of dengue fatalities in the face of an official "black-out" policy by the Minister for Health, Datuk Chua Jui Meng who refused to release data on the escalation in the number of dengue cases and deaths.

On 7th January, I said there were over 60 dengue deaths last year, two days later, I said there were over 66 deaths last year, and yesterday, I said there were over 72 deaths last year.

What was remarkable was that there was not a single occasion in the past month when the Health Minister or any of his officials sought to question the truth of my figures on dengue casualties or to accuse me of being alarmist in giving inflated figures - for they knew fully well that my figures, if not accurate, err on the low side from the actual statistics which would show an even higher fatality rate.

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a warning last July of a dengue outbreak which could be worse than 1998, turning it into a dengue pandemic, dengue had claimed 11 lives in Malaysia in the first six months of last year.

I can now say that from the second half of last year, dengue had claimed more than 65 lives - over 61 deaths in the second six months of last year and over four deaths in the first 14 days of the new year (two in Ipoh and one each in Pahang and Kelantan).

DAP MP for Batu Gajah, Fong Poh Kuan has informed me that for the first two weeks of the month, there were more than 150 dengue cases in the Ipoh General Hospital..
New Straits Times today reports that a Pahang State Assemblyman, M. Davenderan, 48, (Sabai), has been hospitalised for dengue. He believes that he could have contracted dengue while visiting several villages in his constituency which covers Karak in Bentong.

He said: "Some areas in my constituency are obvious breeding grounds for Aedes but the local authorities haven't done anything about it."

Davendran did not say what steps had been taken to ensure that his entire constituency, particularly Karak and Bentong, is dengue-free.

When an elected representative visiting his constituency could be struck down by dengue, it conjures up the vision whether they may have to wear protective clothings as required when people are faced with often-fatal virus attacks like an Ebola haemoerhhagic fever (Ebola HF) outbreak in Africa.

The NST also reported the Pahang State exco decision to demolish the 17-block abandoned flats in Bandar Indera Mahkota in Kuantan which is estimated to cost about RM2.7 million, as the flats have become a gigantic breeding ground for aedes mosquitoes and caused the death six-year-old Mohd Kamil Zulkifli from dengue on New Year's Day.

In normal times, the first question would be why RM2.7 million to demolish the flats, but with the undeclared dengue epidemic with Pahang suddenly as one of the "front-line" states with at least six deaths last year and at least one in the new year, the people of Pahang are entitled to know where the other five dengue deaths occurred so as to be able to take more effective counter-dengue measures.

The Star today reported that Universiti Putra Malaysia issued a dengue alert to students staying off-campus, especially those living in the vicinity of Serdang and Balakong, following a 80 per cent surge in dengue cases reportedly contracted outside the campus.

UPM Health Centre director Dr. Yahaya Abu Ahmad said in December alone, 15 students came down with dengue fever, adding that only two of the students who fell sick lived on campus. He said the campus was basically safe as the source of the illness was outside the campus. Some 16,000 UPM students live in the campus' hostels while about 14,000 students stay outside the campus with over a third residing in dengue-prone areas in Sri Serdang, Sri Kembangan, Taman Universiti and Balakong.

The issue of a dengue alert to UPM students staying off campus is right and proper, but what about the general public and shouldn't there be a general alert about the dengue situation in Selangor which had claimed at least 17 lives last year, accompanied by the necessary data about dengue cases and fatalities?

These dengue reports show that the dengue epidemic is still at its worst phase. With over 72 deaths last year and at least four deaths in first two weeks of this year, and continued inaction from the various government authorities, DAP has decided to convene a roundtable conference of all political parties/professional groups/civic organizations/NGOs/mass media in Kuala Lumpur next Wednesday to prevent more avoidable deaths of Malaysians particularly urban Malays. Invitation will also be sent to the youth and wanita wings of all political parties.

Invitations are being sent out by the convenor of the roundtable conference on the dengue epidemic, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Kepong. Those who are interested to attend the roundtable conference can contact Dr. Tan or the conference secretariat: John Chung 016-3148370 or Anthony Loke 016-6686165, 03-79578127


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman