Call on MPs, regardless of BN, BA or DAP, to demand good governance and
"First World" accountability by withholding parliamentary approval for
RM22.1 billion supplementary estimates 2002 next week unless Chua Jui Meng
gives a full and true account of the worst dengue epidemic in nation's
history and lifts the media blackout on the dengue epidemic
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
In his brilliant diagnosis of the Malaysian malaise in his first major
speech as Acting Prime Minister early this month, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi pinpointed the diseases of "First Class Infrastructure, Third World
Mentality" and "the Ugly Malaysian" completely devoid of "world-class
management and working practices" as the biggest impediments to the country
achieving her greatness as a fully developed nation.
The recent two-week parliamentary meeting has seen such "First Class
Infrastructure, Third World Mentality" Malaysian malaise at its worst,
letting the people see a new breed of "the Ugly Malaysian" - "the ugly
Malaysian Minister - when the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng refused
to give a full and true account of the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's
history, with his continued manipulation of statistics of dengue cases and
deaths to mislead Parliament and the people to downplay the true gravity of
the dengue epidemic still raging in the country - and committing the
cardinal irresponsibility of absenting himself from Parliament to avoid
personally replying on his Ministry during the government's winding-up of
the debate on the motion of thanks for the royal address.
Even the Deputy Health Minister, Datuk Sulaiman Mohamad dared not reply on
Chua's behalf, and the thankless task was given to the parliamentary
secretary, S. Sothinathan, who made a mess of the reply and a farce of the
principles of accountability, transparency and good governance with his most
Sothinathan failed to explain why the Health Ministry had most
irresponsibly and unprofessionally played with dengue data, with the
Ministry of Health website confirming World Health Organisation (WHO) dengue
literature about 58 dengue deaths in 1998, but the Health Minister's press
secretary, Woon Yong Teal, suddenly admitted that there were 82 dengue
deaths in 1998 in a letter to Malaysiakini on 17th March 2003.
Why had 24 dengue deaths in 1998 been hidden away from the WHO, Parliament
and the people for more than four years, which is not calculated to inspire
public confidence and trust in data and statistics released by the Health
In the past 24 hours, China came under criticism by neighbouring countries
when on Wednesday it suddenly and dramatically raised the toll of the new
killer disease, "severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)", to 34 dead and
nearly 800 infected in Guangdong and Beijing after maintaining silence since
its statement in early February that atypical pneumonia had killed five
people and infected 305 in Guangzhou. This is because if the Chinese
authorities had given timely and accurate information about the atypical
pneumonia outbreak in China, there would have been greater global awareness
and the virus might not have spread so widely to become a global threat.
Why is Malaysia, on its part, guilty of hiding the true facts
in the past ten months about the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's
history, after it had caused the most number of dengue cases and deaths, and
is still raging on unchecked?
Chua and Sothinathan's repeated denial of a media "blackout" on
true, full and timely information on the dengue epidemic and their claim
that the killer dengue epidemic is firmly under control have been powerfully
rebutted by the Perak Health director Dr Abdul Razak Kechik, who warned
yesterday that dengue cases in Perak - one of the "black states" in the
dengue epidemic - continue to be on the rise, and twice as many people are
expected to be down with it this year compared with last year.
Dr. Abdul Razak warned: "If the situation continues, by June we
would have the same number of dengue cases as compared with for the whole of
Expressing his concern over the increase in the number of cases in Perak, he
said the threat of dengue was already serious last year as it recorded a 124
per cent increase when compared to 2001. The highest number of dengue cases
this year were recorded in Ipoh, followed by Kinta, Manjong, Kuala Kangsar
and Hilir Perak.
Speaking at the launch of the Perak state-wide anti-dengue campaign for
schools yesterday, Dr. Abdul Razak said the group who would suffer the most
if infected were school-going children aged between 15 and 19 years.
He said: "They make up 15.9 per cent of the cases this year, seven per cent
are children between five and nine years old, while 12.5 per cent are
children aged 10 to 14 years."
The New Straits Times which reported on Dr. Abdul Razak's
warning said however the Perak Health Director "declined to reveal the total
number of dengue cases to date, saying it was a Cabinet directive".
Dr. Abdul Razak is the second person to publicly state that he is prohibited
from revealing the total number of dengue cases and deaths because of a
"Cabinet directive" - the other being the Selangor Mentri Besar, Datuk
Mohamad Khir Toyo who admitted in an email to me dated 27th February 2003
that he could not release any data on dengue cases and deaths in Selangor
state this year because of "Cabinet instruction".
It is most cowardly that Chua does not have the courage of
conviction to justify the media blackout to deny the people timely, full and
accurate information on the dengue epidemic and should hide instead behind
the dishonesty of denying there is such a media "gag", when he was the one
who asked the Cabinet to issue a directive for such an information
In fact, it is pertinent that the NST report on Dr. Abdul
Razak's dengue warning in Perak which appeared under the heading "Dengue
cases continue to rise in Perak - Brenda Lim" did not appear in the national
print edition but available only online - (http://www.emedia.com.my/Current_News/NST/Thursday/NewsBreak/20030327170921/Article/)
I do not want to speculate the reason for the downplaying of
this story, which appeared in the Perak NST edition, when it is important to
the whole nation and not just to Perak.
In the winding-up debate on the royal address on Tuesday,
Sothinathan was conspicuously silent on two other important points which I
made in my briefing to MPs in Parliament House last Wednesday:
" My rebuttal of Chua's denial that there had been a World
Health Organisation (WHO) global dengue alert in July last year warning all
governments in the region to take effective anti-dengue preventive actions.
Why had the Health Minister missed the WHO global dengue alert last July,
and was this a major cause why the dengue epidemic had gone out of control
in the past ten months?
" Chua was very proud that the Dengue Haemorrhage Fever (DHF) case-fatality
rate for last year was 10%, totally forgetting that under the Seventh
Malaysia Plan, the target for case-fatality rate for DHF is "not more than
1%" - which is now exceeded by over 1,000 per cent with a DHF fatality rate
of 10%. What is the reason for such a serious deviation from the Seventh
Malaysia Plan objective with regard to DHF case-fatality rate?
Chua must not be allowed to get away with such "Third World Ministerial"
misconduct and parliamentary irresponsibility as to escape accountability
for the mishandling of the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history and
which is still raging on unchecked, causing unnecessary and avoidable
I call on MPs, regardless of Barisan Nasional, Barisan
Alternative or DAP, to demand good governance and "First World"
accountability from Ministers by withholding parliamentary approval for the
RM22.1 billion supplementary estimates 2002 next week unless Chua gives a
full and true account of the worst dengue epidemic in nation's history and
lifts the media blackout on the dengue epidemic to give timely and accurate
information to the people.
If Parliament is unable to assert its authority to demand good governance
and the "First World" accountability by Ministers, then it becomes a party
to the "Third World" Ministerial mishandling of the worst dengue epidemic in
the nation's history - which is not only a black mark for the tenth
Malaysian Parliament, but relegates it to a "Third World" Parliament.
In tabling the fourth set of 2002 Supplementary Estimates, totaling RM22.1
billion comprising RM16.7 billion for operating expenditures and RM5.4
billion development estimates, the government is asking for the biggest jump
in supplementary estimates for last year. This is because the RM22.1 billion
which the government is asking in the fourth set of 2002 supplementary
estimates is almost four times the total of the previous three earlier sets
of 2002 supplementary estimates - i.e .RM6.6 billion comprising RM854
million, RM2 billion and RM3,773 billion for the first three sets
Furthermore, the total of the four sets of 2002 supplementary estimates
which exceed RM28 billion, violate an important principle of budgetary
estimates as they come to a walloping 28.64 per cent of the original 2002
budget of RM100.518 billion - which does not reflect well on the
government's budgetary planning.
These are however secondary questions to the primary issue of asserting
parliamentary control over Ministerial performance and accountability, and
this is why the fourth set of 2002 supplementary estimates of RM22.1 billion
should be turned into a test case as to whether the Health Minister can get
away with his mishandling of the dengue epidemic without having to give a
proper accounting to Parliament.
There are two ways for Parliament to demand good governance and "First
World" Ministerial accountability - withhold approval for the RM22.1 billion
supplementary estimates at the second reading or to pass RM10-cut motions to
censure the Health Minister until its demands are met.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National