By John Isaac
BINTULU MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing has doubled down on his criticism of Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, stating that he didn’t care about the backlash if it meant keeping the DG accountable.
“I must reiterate yet again that I had in no way meant to offend our frontline personnel. In fact, I specifically noted their selfless dedication in fighting the pandemic.
“What I had pointed out is the personal accountability and responsibility of the Health Ministry director-general during this difficult period. These issues must be taken much more seriously, for the health and future of all Malaysians,” Tiong said in a statement as reported by Malaysiakini.
“I care nothing about the inevitable and expected backlash a public figure like myself would receive if it means keeping you accountable to bring down these cases. Because the numbers are beyond serious now, the people’s sufferings insurmountable, and the economy going down the drain,” he added.
He also lashed out at fellow Sarawak-based GPS coalition member Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah. Abdul Karim, who is also the PBB vice-president, had said he felt ashamed by Tiong’s statement against Noor Hisham.
Tiong, who is the PDP president, had on Wednesday accused Dr Noor Hisham of being “afraid to die” for not visiting Sabah at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in the state.
However, Tiong maintained that his criticism is justified. He gave the example of instances where medical workers in Sarawak had to improvise due to a lack of personal protective equipment.
“Think of the personal protective equipment (PPE) that Sarawak had been severely lacking in the past, forcing frontliners to cut out plastic bags to become makeshift PPE and others need to buy their own PPE.
“These alone cause doubt in the effectiveness of the country’s fight against Covid-19, and questions still remain about whether the system is comprehensive enough to carry us through. Does Abdul Karim think these questions and doubts deserve to be addressed?” Tiong asked.
There have been multiple reports about shortage of PPE throughout the course of the pandemic, but Noor Hisham has often maintained that there is enough supply.
The disconnect is in part due to the fact that Noor Hisham often referred to the central stockpile. However, the stockpiles do not reach the respective hospitals immediately.
On the flip side, there have been questions about Tiong’s motives in attacking Dr Noor Hisham.
Dr Adham Baba
His critics have pointed out that Tiong did not single out Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba and Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who are the political leaders overseeing efforts to fight the pandemic. This is in contrast to Noor Hisham, who is a civil servant.
However, Tiong has found support from PRS president Tan Sri Dr James Masing, whose party is also a component member of GPS. Masing also told Tiong to be careful about using improper words.
Tiong thanked Masing for the advice, adding that the “afraid to die” comment had nothing to do with race or religion.
Dr Noor Hisham has defended himself against Tiong’s criticism, stating that he was not afraid to die and had visited Sabah in August. However, Tiong was unconvinced.
“Tan Sri, you had highlighted in your defence the fact that you had indeed gone down to the ground in Sabah in August. However, during that time, Covid-19 cases were still relatively low and the prime minister had also been there then.
“In fact, Covid-19 cases in Sabah were so low that it begs the question why you were there then and not in the past few weeks when cases have increased sharply,” Tiong said.
Tiong, who is the federal government’s special enjoy to China, also raised concerns about the growing number of Covid-19 cases in West Malaysia.
“What has become extremely worrying is that the outbreaks in various states, including Selangor, Kedah, Penang and Negeri Sembilan, are on the verge of spiralling out of control.
“If the pandemic is not pushed back, the economic decline will accelerate, and plunge even more small and medium enterprises into bankruptcy. What should our stressed households do for the people who lose their jobs then?” he asked.
Tiong said he was facing pressure from the people to raise questions on the matter.
“As wakil rakyat, we must be courageous in voicing out for our grassroots. Aren’t we responsible to be the channel for their grievances and thoughts?
“Even though doing so may attract brickbats and censure from all corners, we should stand up and speak for the people, instead of letting them be ignored for our own sake,” he said.
Tiong said his critics should check with him about his criticism instead of relying on media reports, which he said were sensationalised.
“You should strive to check the facts of my full text of the speech in Parliament, instead of relying on news reports which have been sensationalised, based on a one-sided report from DAP Jelutong MP RSN Rayer’s antics in Parliament,” he said.
Rayer had slammed Tiong in the Dewan Rakyat after the Bintulu MP made the unflattering suggestion that Noor Hisham feared for his mortality, resulting in the Jelutong MP to be ejected from the House.