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Media Statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Friday, 30th January 2009: 

Liow Tiong Lee should take leave from MCA duties and concentrate on waging and winning the war against dengue as it could seriously undermine Malaysia's international competitiveness

Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai flew into a rage over my suggestion that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi appoint a new Health Minister if Liow is incapable of being an effective commander-in-chief in an all-out war against the worsening dengue epidemic to check continuing avoidable loss of lives.

Liow descended to a very personal level, resorting to abuses and invective, such as calling me a "poisonous political mosquito".

I will not go down to Liow's puerile level as my priority concern is to puncture Liow's phoney war against dengue which could only lead to more avoidable dengue deaths and sufferings, which had already reached an unprecedented level last year, so that the Health Minister can take full responsibility to mobilize the nation to wage an all-out and successful war against dengue.

Liow failed Malaysians as a Health Minister last year in failing to spearhead a war against dengue, which recorded the highest number of 49,335 dengue cases and 112 dengue deaths in the nation's history.

If Liow had fully focussed on his duties and responsibilities last year as Health Minister with regard to the dengue epidemic and did not allow the MCA's power-struggle to distract him, many lives would have been saved as the motto of the Ministry's campaign should be: "A dengue death which is avoidable is one too many!"

No rational person will have any quarrel with a belated "war on dengue" declared by Liow this month as it is better late than never, although this is no excuse for refusing to admit the Health Minister's failure to lead a national campaign against dengue last year.

The question is whether even now, the so-called "war against dengue" is a serious one or is it a phoney one more on P.R. than to mobilize all sectors of the population to win the war against dengue with the motto that a dengue death is one too many!

I am puzzled by two press reports in the past two days, on statements by the Health director-general, Tan Sri Dr. Ismail Merican, viz:

  • Bernama report from Kota Bharu quoting Dr. Ismail as saying that "the epidemic on dengue and chikungunya in the country is still under control and has yet to reach a critical stage"; and
  • Malaysiakini report today quoting Dr. Ismail as saying that the counry is battling "its worst-ever outbreak of dengue fever".

Dr. Ismail is also quoted in Kota Baharu as saying that "Last year, 120 people died due to dengue fever" which is different from the figure of 112 dengue deaths for last year which had been used by the Health Minister.

In the Malaysiakini report today, Dr. Ismail has come out with another new figure that the number of dengue deaths for this month has increased to 14 with 5,062 dengue cases as compared to five dengue deaths and 2,855 cases in the same period a year ago.

These conflicting figures of dengue cases and deaths for different periods, whether caused by the Health authorities or the media, can have only one effect - to undermine public confidence in the seriousness of the Health Ministry to wage an all-out war against dengue.

Instead of flying into a rage over my proposal that the Prime Minister should appoint a new Health Minister unless Liow could single-mindedly spearhead an all-out war against dengue, Liow should prove he is capable of being an effective commander-in-chief in the anti-dengue campaign.

For a start, Liow should take leave from all MCA duties and concentrate on waging and winning the war against dengue to prevent any avoidable dengue death, especially as it could seriously undermine Malaysia's international competitiveness.

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



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