Call on Cabinet to lift ban on information and to order full disclosure of worst dengue epidemic to ensure public confidence in government handling of SARS outbreak

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Monday): Last Saturday, the Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng blamed Malaysians for being afflicted by the "suspicion culture" and called on the people to stop spreading baseless rumours about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the country.

He said there had been no case of SARS in Malaysia and the people should not create panic over SARS.

If there is a '"suspicion culture" among Malaysians about the Health Ministry's handling of SARS, it is completely of Chua's making, as a result of his chronic mishandling of the worst dengue epidemic with media blackouts and manipulation of dengue statistics to downplay the gravity of the incidence of dengue cases and fatalities in the past year.

Even at present, there is a standing Cabinet ban initiated by Chua prohibiting other Health Ministry officials, Mentris Besar, Chief Ministers and State health officials from giving the public the latest updates on dengue cases and deaths.

With such a Health Ministry-induced information blackout of the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history, which is still raging unchecked causing more unnecessary and avoidable deaths, how could Chua expect to create public confidence and credibility in the Health Ministry's handling of epidemics or killer disease outbreaks like SARS?

If the Health Ministry cannot be trusted on the dengue epidemic, how could it be trusted on the SARS outbreak?

As a first step to fully restore public confidence in the Health Ministry's handling of public health hazards, in particular SARS with reports of suspected cases in the country, DAP calls on the Cabinet on Wednesday to lift the ban on information and to order a full disclosure of the worst dengue epidemic in Malaysia since its outbreak in the past year.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman