12:35pm 22/04/2020
The minister is complacent, careless and conceited

By Mariam Mokhtar

The coronavirus pandemic is a time when everyone, including politicians of all political persuasions, must unite in the face of an unseen enemy—the virus.

However, Minister of Health Dr Adham Baba thought he could score political Brownie points from the scores of deaths from coronavirus and thousands of people who are suffering from the disease.

So what is the real reason for Adham's claim that the previous Pakatan government had failed to contain the tabligh cluster which spread the coronavirus?

Adham made his remarks during a conference call on 18 April with the president of Umno-Baru, Zahid Hamidi, which was later uploaded to Facebook. Instead of getting the desired effect, Adham has been vilified by the public.

The minister should be more morally and politically astute. He has not learned from his mistake of announcing the 'tepid water cure' for coronavirus, and he comes across as a clueless, careless and conceited person.

Adham told Zahid he had chatted with various world leaders and said, "I believe what I have done has been acknowledged by the world.

"I have had video conferencing with the World Health Organization (WHO), I did a live (video conference) with the health ministers from China, Singapore and also a live conferencing, along with the prime minister with Asean ministers and Asean plus three which are Korea, Japan and China." [sic]

Self-praise is no praise and only shows that Adham is conceited.

Contrast the words and actions of the Director-General (DG) of Health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah who was recently named by the China Global TV Network (CGTN) as one of the top three doctors in the world involved in the handling of the pandemic.

When asked how he felt about being a "national hero", the DG said, "It is not about me, but what we (citizens) can do as one to fight COVID-19."

It is also about style and delivery. Noor's matter-of-fact bulletins on the latest coronavirus developments which he presents in a calm and reassuring manner, are in striking contrast to the excited, false jollity of his boss, Adham, who is infamous for his claim that drinking tepid water will "flush" the virus into the stomach to be killed by digestive acids.

Adham must find that the accolades heaped upon his DG hard to bear. The DG has been singled out for praise not just by Malaysians, but also by CGTN.

Did Adham consult the timeline of the pandemic before he made his unprecedented attack against Pakatan?

The Seri Petaling tabligh gathering took place between 27 February and 1 March. The Sheraton Hotel coup was hatched on 23 February, and from the 24 to the 29 there was no official government in Malaysia, just an interim caretaker PM.

The World Health Organization (WHO) only declared coronavirus a pandemic on 12 March. Before that, each nation was told to enforce stringent personal hygiene measures and practice social distancing.

The minister blames Pakatan for allowing public events to proceed, so why did Perikatan Nasional (PN) allow the Hindu religious event that took place in Batu Ferringhi, Penang, two weeks after the Seri Petaling tabligh gathering?

Adham said Pakatan should have stopped the tabligh event but he knew that if Pakatan had done that, there would have been a public outcry with accusations that DAP in the Pakatan government, or the non-Malays in the administration, were anti-Islam.

He is aware that the PN government is averse to announcing a ban on Friday prayers lest they upset the Muslims, and it was only when people started dying from coronavirus that the authorities were compelled to act.

Most people did not hear about the tabligh event until a man from Brunei, who had attended the event, fell ill with coronavirus on 3 March. The Brunei authorities alerted their Malaysian counterparts because five other people had also fallen ill in the first week of March.

PN could have banned Friday prayers, but they didn't. The Minister of Religious Affairs said sermons could be shortened as a compromise.

If Adham had wanted to politicize the pandemic, he should have accused his boss, Muhyiddin Yassin, of betraying the rakyat in opposition-held states. Their leaders were not invited to the coronavirus briefings organized by the prime minister. Chief Secretary to the Government Zuki Ali was made a scapegoat for this failure.

The real reason for Adham's attack on the Pakatan government was because he had discovered that his deputy Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali had fallen foul of the strict rules of the Movement Control Order (MCO), and all hell would have broken loose when the revelation was made public. Noor had been photographed eating with thirty people at a tahfiz school in Lenggong, Perak.

Malaysians have been fined, jailed and humiliated for breaking the MCO. So it is a very serious matter when the deputy Minister of Health is responsible for breaking this law.

In Scotland, chief medical officer Dr Cathering Calderwood resigned and New Zealand's Health Minister David Clark was demoted, for flouting lockdown laws. They knew their positions were untenable.

In Malaysia, two sets of laws exist; one for ministers, and another for the rakyat.

The deputy minister has no respect for rules, and perhaps thinks the law only applies to the common man. He probably believes that as a minister, no one would report him and he can go unpunished. He may even subscribe to the saying, "Do as I say, not as I do."

The real reason Adham distracted us with the jibe against Pakatan was to distract us from the real news, which is the fact his deputy had broken the law and he feared our reaction.

He is right! The deputy health minister should resign or be sacked!


1. The Star: Dr Noor Hisham a top professional in COVID-19 fight

2. Free Malaysia Today: Noor Hisham shies away from being called a hero

3. MalaysiaKini: China TV names Noor Hisham among world's top three doctors on COVID-19

4. MalaysiaKini: Health minister: Previous gov't failed to contain tabligh cluster

5. MalaysiaKini NewsLab: Patient Info

6. WHO: Rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

7. WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public

8. Wikipedia: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Malaysia

9. The Star: Hindu festival celebrated in green way

10. Reuters: New Zealand demotes minister for coronavirus lockdown breach, extends emergency

(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)



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