Chua Jui Meng, who should be censured in Parliament for a most dishonest and unsatisfactory answer on the dengue epidemic, should withdraw his preposterous  allegation against me or face a one-to-one “Tell and Clear All” session to get to the bottom of the dengue epidemic

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Wednesday): In the first sitting of Dewan Rakyat yesterday, the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng answered in one-go nine questions on the worst dengue epidemic in the nation’s history which had been submitted  by Barisan Nasional, DAP and PAS MPs for the current 17-day meeting of Parliament. 

This was  the height of parliamentary irresponsibility, as it did a grave injustice to an issue which should be accorded topmost  priority in Parliament  as it concerns the most fundamental right of all Malaysians – the right to life -   as the dengue epidemic which is still raging unchecked has caused the most number of dengue cases and dengue deaths in the country and is still causing unnecessary and avoidable deaths  – with Chua admitting for the first time that there had been 11 dengue deaths this year till February 22, which I believe seriously errs on the low side.


Although Chua gave a 11-page reply, it was impossible for him in one answer  to address the various aspects of the dengue epidemic which had been raised in the nine parliamentary questions. Furthermore, in answering all nine dengue questions in one-go, Chua also denied MPs the opportunity the put 18 supplementary questions to elicit further information – on the basis of the common practice of two supplementary questions to an answer if the question gets to be asked during the daily parliamentary question-and-answer hour.


As an example, the DAP MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw had a question on dengue yesterday, which asked the Health Minister “to state the number of confirmed dengue cases and deaths every year since 1997, what is the situation in every state”. This question was not answered at all, as Chua could escape the  detailed parliamentary scrutiny  of nine separate parliamentary questions by lumping them together and giving a general overall reply – which is not calculated to enhance either Ministerial accountability and competence or parliamentary effectiveness.


Chua should be censured in Parliament for a most dishonest and unsatisfactory answer on the worst dengue epidemic in the nation’s history,  withdraw his preposterous allegation against me or face a one-to-one “Tell and Clear All” session with me  to get to the bottom of the dengue epidemic.


I will in my initial response today to Chua’s parliamentary reply and attack on me yesterday refer to four points raised by him.


Firstly, Chua implied that I had “lied”  in making a false accusation that the Health Ministry had ignored the World Health Organisation (WHO) alert on the dengue epidemic last July.


Chua said that based on  Health  Ministry records, it did not receive any “written warning”  issued by the WHO office in Kuala Lumpur or the WHO Western Pacific region based in Manila on the dengue alert.  He even got  a “written admission” from the WHO representative in Kuala Lumpur dated Feb 24 which explained that WHO never issued such a warning.


In going to such a length  to extract a “written admission” by the WHO KL office, which  had to humour him, Chua had only  exposed the Health Ministry to international ridicule and subjected the country to enormous embarrassment, for if the Health Minister had devoted similar energies  to battle the worst dengue epidemic in the nation’s history, there would not be so many dengue cases and  such a high toll of unnecessary and avoidable deaths!


In continuing to maintain “ignorance” about the WHO alert of a possible dengue pandemic last July, Chua had only undermined the good name and professionalism of the Health Ministry.


I only need refer him to two Internet reports about the WHO dengue warning last July, one from  the Utusan Malaysia Online and  the other from the ENN (Environmental News Network).  The Utusan Malaysia Online  quoted an AP report from Geneva dated July 29, 2002, with the heading “WHO issues dengue fever warning”, and which reads:


“GENEVA July 29 - The World Health Organisation said on Monday that 2002 was shaping up to be a bad year for dengue fever and urged governments and individuals to protect against the mosquitoes which spread the infection.


‘’This year is looking a bit like 1998 when we had a pandemic. It's a very worrying picture' said Mike Nathan of WHO's department of communicable diseases, adding a record 1.2 million cases were reported in 1998.


“Dengue fever, a mosquito-born infection found in tropical and sub-tropical regions, has flu-like symptoms such as fever, headaches and pain in the joints, but it can develop into dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) which causes haemorrhaging, liver enlargement, circulatory failure and, in some cases, death.


“Jose Esparza, coordinator of WHO's viral vaccines team, said the search for a vaccine was still going on but was a long-term project and no ’magic bullet' to replace prevention efforts.


“The vaccine must fight against all four strains of dengue fever. Once an individual is infected, he is only immune to that strain and has a greater likelihood of suffering more severely from a second infection.


“The surge this year is due chiefly to the nature of the disease itself and is predominant in areas where household water storage and inadequate solid waste disposal services prevail.


“’During the 1998 pandemic, there was a lot of transmission so many people developed an immunity. Typically after a big outbreak you get a quiet year, then each year it begins to build up again until you have an epidemic. That seems to be where we are now,’  Nathan told a news conference.

“In the first quarter, Brazil alone reported 84 deaths to the WHO from around 550,000 cases of dengue fever, 200,000 of those the more serious DHF. Although reporting is sketchy, the WHO estimates there are around 50 million cases of the infection each year and 2.5 billion of the world's population is at risk.


“Nathan called on governments to implement measures to cut mosquito populations and urged people to take simple precautions such as unblocking gutters and discarding packaging properly to prevent stagnant water, a prime breeding area for mosquitoes. – AP”


The  ENN item is available at the following URL:,


Datelined Geneva on July 30, 2002, the  Associated Press report quoted Dr. Mike Nathan on the increasing risks from the potentially fatal mosquito-borne dengue disease, which affects 100 countries across Africa, the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, southeast Asia, and the western Pacific.

Nathan said “Countries declare a state of emergency when the disease is upon them, but that’s really too late. In most countries, lots of money gets thrown at an epidemic, but not in the intervening period.”


It also contained the sombre warning in the following paragraph:


“Once sufferers have recovered, they are immune to the strain that infected them. But if they then catch a different strain of the disease, they can become gravely ill, said Dr. Jose Esparza, WHO's vaccine research coordinator. Immunity against one strain boosts the risk of developing dengue hemorrhagic fever, a complication of the basic disease which causes a high fever and internal bleeding. It can kill patients within a few days unless they are hospitalized and given rehydration treatment.”


The Health Ministry may be forgiven for not accessing the ENN item, but can it be so IT-literate and media-backward that it does not access local media coverage when it reported the WHO warning last July of a possible dengue pandemic in the region, including Malaysia?


The killer Aedes aegypti mosquito do not wait for “black and white” authority before they bite, spread dengue and kill lives.  Why should Chua demand “black and white” warning from the WHO office in KL before heeding the WHO dengue alert issued by Geneva last July to minimize suffering and save lives in Malaysia?


Secondly, Chua’s dishonest manipulation with statistics to downplay the gravity of the worst dengue epidemic currently raging in the country.

Chua said in his parliamentary answer:


“Pada tahun 1998 boleh dikatakan seluruh dunia mencatatkan peningkatan kes termasuk juga Negara kita yang meningkat sebanyang 73.1%.  Di Malaysia, sejak tahun 1997 sehingga 2002 purata kes dengi (demam denggi dan deman denggi berdarah) setahun adalah 8,364 kes dan kematian sebanyak 54 kes.  Jumlah kes tertinggi dilaporkan dalam tahun 1998 (13,742). Dalam tempoh masa yang sama beberapa negeri telah melaporkan purata yang tinggi. Negeri-negeri tersebut ialah Selangor (1,661 kes), Wilayah Persekutuah (1,326), Johor (1,268 kes) dan Perak (926 kes).  Lain-lain negeri melaporkan purata kes kurang dari 700 setahun.”


In claiming that there were 13,742 reported dengue cases in 1998, Chua was going against official WHO data which reported 27,379 dengue cases and 58 deaths.  It also went against what Chua himself had said on public record some three years ago and which was reported in all the local press on 29th April 1999  about the 20-fold increase in dengue cases from  1986 to 1998,  when “there were only 1,408 cases with eight deaths in 1986 but 12 years down the line, the number had spiraled to 27,373 cases with 58 deaths”.


If the Health Minister can take such liberties with statistics, going against what he himself had publicly said three years ago on the same matter,  who can ever believe him when he talks about facts and figures?


Thirdly, Chua claims that for 2002 last year, there were 11,394 dengue cases and 57 deaths.  This is direct contradiction of  the admission by the Selangor Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Dr. Mohamad Khir Toyo in his email to me dated February 24 that as of 28th December last year, there were 9,385  reported dengue cases in Selangor state.


Khir Toyo’s email confirmed the veracity of the table published  by Sin Chew Daily (22.1.03),  which reported for the first time  the figure of 9,385  dengue cases in Selangor , that there were 32,289 dengue cases country-wide last year as of 28th December 2002, with the following state-by-state breakdowns:



No. of Dengue cases





Kuala Lumpur












Negeri Sembilan






























I had said that the death toll of 57 countrywide for last year  fell far short of the total death tally which had been given by the various state government health officials or state exco members responsible for health, as well as mass media reports and anecdotal accounts of actual deaths, which I will leave for another occasion.


With the great difference in the figures of 32,289 reported dengue cases last year (up to 28.12.02) and Chua’s figure of 11,394 cases given in Parliament yesterday, Malaysians must ask why Chua is again engaged in another major cover-up after the previous Nipah virus and Coxsackie epidemic cover-ups, which also caused enormous suffering and great human toll.


Thirdly, Chua said that there were 11 dengue deaths this year till 22nd February 2003.  He has lost all credibility with statistics, and he should give a full detailed list of the dengue fatalities last year and this year,  giving names, locality and date of death, for a verification as to whether they tally with the full toll  of dengue deaths in the current dengue epidemic.


Fourthly, Chua alleged that I was trying to spring a “political trap” for him and to  “shame” Malaysia with the approach of the 13th NAM Summit by raising the alarm about the dengue epidemic and dengue deaths.


This is a most unworthy and preposterous allegation, and I demand its  unconditional withdrawal and his apology for the  despicable imputation and insinuation.  I am as concerned as anyone in the government that the 13th NAM Summit should be a success, but I cannot agree that any human life should be sacrificed to ensure the success of any conference. Such things only take place in countries with “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality”!


Chua should be censured in Parliament for a most dishonest and unsatisfactory answer on the dengue epidemic and he should withdraw his preposterous  allegation against me. Alternatively, he should be prepared to have  face a one-to-one “Tell and Clear All” session to get to the bottom of the dengue epidemic, in the presence of the media and concerned public.


I am giving Chua up to the end of this week to agree to a one-to-one session to establish the real truth about the dengue epidemic.  I had in fact sought a meeting with Chua three months ago over the dengue epidemic, but he had been avoiding me all these months except for a chance and brief encounter at the KLIA last month.  If Chua is not prepared to accept  my challenge to  a one-to-one “Tell and Clear All” session by end of this week, I am prepared to go to Parliament early next week to give a full briefing to Members of Parliament about Chua;s  irresponsible mishandling of the dengue epidemic.



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman