COMMENT | Stop the harassment of Boo Su-Lyn
Published 9:03 am
Modified 9:03 am
I have no doubt that the nation has suffered more from undue secrecy than from undue disclosure. The government takes good care of itself.”
– Daniel Schorr
COMMENT | It is frustrating that the police are questioning the health news portal CodeBlue‘s editor-in-chief for reporting on the Sultanah Aminah Hospital fire in 2016 that killed six patients, which was classified as an official state secret at the time.
What’s so frustrating about the interrogation of Boo Su-Lyn (above) is that this is an instance where the system worked, but the political apparatus is failing us. The fact that there was “confusion” over what exact laws she broke further highlights the capriciousness of the “investigation”.
Now, it has been reported that former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, who was the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has also been called in for questioning.
The then Pakatan Harapan government, in one of its attempts to present the findings of their investigation into the fire, acknowledged that there were failures among various agencies. Former health minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, in arguing for transparency said, “What we want is transparency, including the weaknesses of the hospital or others (agencies), which will be revealed next week.”
As reported by CodeBlue, “The investigating committee handed its report to the Health Ministry in June 2018 under the Harapan administration. On Oct 2, 2019, the cabinet decided that the Health Ministry was to publish the report. Dzulkefly did not do so. However, he confirmed with CodeBlue on Feb 24 this year that the Hospital Sultanah Aminah report was declassified as a state secret.”
As I write this, the former health minister has not come forward to deny or confirm what the CodeBlue editor claimed. This, of course, is extremely worrisome, coming from a former government official who campaigned on transparency and press freedom.
The work of the independent committee investigating the fire at the hospital clearly demonstrated that there were grave lapses in safety protocols. Among them were the lack of staff training, malfeasance on the part of Medivest Sdn Bhd (which the committee suggested for the government to commence legal proceedings against) and the serious issues with the way the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) carried out its duties.
What the independent inquiry exposed was systemic dysfunction in the various parties that were supposed to ensure public health and safety, but more importantly, the findings finally explained why six people had to die because the system failed them.
Why is it important to intimidate the press for reporting the findings of an independent government commission?
If you go through the four-part articles you will discover:
1. The incompetence of the hospital administration, which was allowed to operate in a “fire hazard”;
2. The alleged malfeasance of Medivest (the private medical support company);
3. The dereliction of duty – in my opinion – of the Bomba; and
4. The brazen indifference of the Health Ministry (at the time) of one of its charges, but more importantly, the tolerance of systemic dysfunction in agencies that are vested with the power to ensure the safety of the rakyat. These are not issues that should be ignored by the public.
The independent investigation not only urged the government to initiate legal proceedings against the company but also detailed a litany of malfeasances that contributed to the tragedy:
“This lackadaisical attitude on the part of the staff of Medivest persisted despite several incidents of fire outbreaks previously occurring in the Main Building of the hospital on July 30, 2008; January 2010; May 5, 2016; as well as Oct 14, 2016.”
The tragedy here is that Boo provided a vital service to the Malaysian public and she is being harassed for it. As Codeblue reported this March, the newly appointed health minister would look into the reports of the findings: “Definitely the Prime Minister and Ministry of Health will look into that.”
This is the result of the state looking into it.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.