Press Statement by DAP Deputy Secretary General and Batu Lanchang State Assemblywoman Chong Eng on 4 July 1999.

News black-out would not help solve Nipah problem in Gertak Sanggul

DAP urges the state government to be more transparent in handling of Nipah case in Gertak Sanggul.

DAP Penang receive call for help from the residents of Gertak Sanggul yesterday afternoon. They claimed that they heard words that some 6,000 pigs in the a farm about one km away from their village are to be cull because the authority concerned had detected Nipah virus in the blood samples taken from the farm.

DAP leaders and myself went to the village at 6pm yesterday. We saw a site about 15 feet from some houses, across a road, on the beach and about 15 feet from the sea, has been prepared. Affected residents said they were told that the 6,000 infected pigs were be transported from the farm and be culled and carcasses burned at the site.

Residents objected. They appeal to the authorities concerned to find alternative sites away from residential area. They also suggested to destroy and burn the pigs at the infected farm itself.

Until 2.30pm today, the authorities concerned still unable to find an alternative site. The residents fear the burning of 6,000 carcasses so near the houses, could pose a health hazard.

The affected residents were told that they have to evacate for few days. But they have not been informed when and where. They feel it is unfair that they, who have not contributed to the problem now have to face the side-effects.

Till the time of this statement, the state government has not issue any public statement on the issue. In fact, DAP learned that the Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr.Koh Tsu Koon had called a meeting with representatives from all newspapers in Penang about two weeks ago, telling them not to publish news on Nipah virus cases found in the state.

DAP strongly condemns Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon for interfering press freedom and robbing the rights to be informed of the people..

The people of Penang, especially those directly affected have the rights to know the real situation of the disease because their health is at stage.

Dr. Koh Tsu Koon should have learned from the Kampung Rawa incident where news black-out has lead to waste consequence.

The chief minister should effectively handle the problem at hand. News black-out would not help. People in the dark and not getting information from the official channels will be more easily influence by rumours.

DAP calls on Dr. Koh Tsu Koon to inform the people of Penang regarding the latest situation of Nipah virus infection in the state. The people have the rights to be informed.