Local Authorities Fail in Fighting Dengue (Posted on 12.39pm Jan 04, 2003 )

I am saddened that several people in my neighborhood have contracted dengue.

It does not end there. For the record, we have also had fatalities and noted among them is a Subang Jaya resident, also a former Universiti Hospital Eye Specialist and Associate Professor, who has served with dedication and distinction. She is a shining beacon and friend to both her colleagues, and post and undergraduate medical students!

And for this reason alone, I cannot but be angry and upset that the information that dengue fever has claimed 54 lives in 2002, with 10,753 confirmed cases reported nationwide was kept from the public.

And to add salt to wound, neither was there a concentrated effort in mobilizing a nationwide effort to combat this outbreak nor take punitive sanctions against those who aid and abet this situation to exist, be they individuals, developers or the local councils!

Despite all the "hype, propaganda and publicity on how e-savvy Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) is, the township has the distinction of been singled out as the "dengue capital of the nation"!

And noted among them are the "high demand residential areas in USJ!"

Perhaps, those who have received their "political appointment" as MPSJ councilors with the various perks should tender their resignation for failing miserably to monitor, act and protect the rights and interests of residents here!

And the heads of the MPSJ health enforcement units should be immediately replaced!

It is a pity that a township which was planned as an "environmental haven" four decades ago has turned into a "nightmare concrete jungle", thanks to incompetent enforcement, questionable and arbitrarily construction approvals and with construction and developers running amok.

INSENSITIVE

Today, Subang Jaya can be best remembered for the symbiotic relationships between certain developers enjoying a monopoly in construction approvals and "people in the corridors of power" despite failing to surrender titles meant for parks, public areas and usage and for an obsession for "Manhattan styled skyline", excessive signboards, abandoned projects, traffic jams, flash flood, contaminated water and a quality of life that is suspect!

And these very authorities instead of mobilizing a massive campaign to contain the outbreak are rather insensitive by telling us to be calm and that we are "currently experiencing an increase in the number of cases compared to 2001, but it has not reached the epidemic stage!

As a consumer advocate, may I ask both the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and Ministry of Health, how many "body bags" must we fill before it is to be classified "an epidemic" and worthy of a national alert and effort?

For the record, in 2001 alone, Malaysia posted 50 deaths and reported 8,669 dengue cases.

I am also aware that the World Health Organization (WHO) had issued an alert about five months ago warning all countries in the tropical region, including Malaysia, to be prepared for an increase in the number of dengue cases in view of present weather conditions. It is a pity that our local authorities have not adequately responded to the alert!

Ironically, the problem is not in some rural unreachable corner of Malaysia but in several areas who boost of their "bandaraya status" !

Time here is of the essence and it is of utmost importance that both the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Health put away their "petty squabbles and ministerial tussles" and address the outbreak.

It is also important that the Ministry of Information instead of spending too much time on "political propaganda" go on an offensive media blitz, utilizing the private television stations too, to conscientize the masses on the dengue problem.

Dr. Jacob George
Subang Jaya
Tel: 012-3664444
Dr Jacob George is president and legal adviser to the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa) and chairman of the MIC Subang Jaya Town Centre (MICSJTC).

This opinion piece has also been published in The Star, January 4, 2003