Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 20th January 2009: 

Malaysia needs a real "war on dengue" and not a "phoney war" waged by spinmeisters  

I was at first quite impressed that the Health Minister, Datuk Liow Tiong Lai had at last woken up to the gravity of the worst dengue epidemic and the chikungunya outbreak in the country when I heard that the Health Ministry had declared a "war on dengue".

At last, I thought, the Health Minister has heard the critique of many at the Health Ministry's indifference and irresponsibility at the dengue epidemic, with record dengue cases and dengue deaths last year, as well as the chikungunya outbreak in the country.

"War on dengue" is today's front-page headline of the Star. It is the only newspaper today to quote Liow on the subject, making the most "un-warlike" comment – "We are taking dengue fever cases very seriously because the numbers have doubled compared to the same time last year."

This was followed by his most "unwarlike" action –off he went with the MCA delegation headed by MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Kiat for a trip to China – abandoning the "war on dengue" which had just been declared!

This is no war but a phoney war on dengue!

I am not saying that Liow should not be on the MCA delegation to China but going off in this fashion cannot convince Malaysians that the Health Ministry under his leadership is finally serious about a "war on dengue".

How can there be a "war on dengue" when even the mainstream media is not aware of such war – with New Straits Times report running the headline "Dengue today more aggressive" and quoting the Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Ismail Merican's lament that Malaysia seems to be losing the war against dengue.

Dr. Mohd Ismail was giving a media briefing on the latest dengue situation and reported that in the 17 days from Jan. 1 to 17, there were 3,211 cases with eight deaths, compared with 1,514 cases with four deaths for the same period last year.

What Liow did was just to comment on the latest statistics given out by Dr. Mohd Ismail but where is the "war" plan and "war" strategy against dengue? Is there a "war operations headquarters" giving a day-by-day account of the "war against dengue", especially on dengue cases and deaths, and their locations?

Up to now, Malaysians have not been given a full account of the dengue epidemic last year – the final update of the number of dengue cases and dengue deaths, with a detailed breakdown for the different states as compared to previous years.

Was the dengue toll last year 112 deaths or even higher?

Malaysia needs a real "war on dengue" and not a "phoney war" waged by spinmeisters.

If Liow is incapable of spearheading such a war against dengue, then let there be a new Health Minister who is capable of shouldering the task.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor