KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 — Two Opposition lawmakers today criticised the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) gag order on health workers, amid complaints of queue-cutting in the national Covid-19 vaccination programme.
Johor Bahru MP Akmal Nasir said MOH secretary-general Mohd Shafiq Abdullah’s warning to MOH staff not to make any public statements or comments appeared to be an attempt to prevent the public from “knowing what’s really happening in the implementation of the national Covid-19 immunisation programme”.
“Although it was stated that the instruction was not meant to prevent any officer from speaking up, however, it will inadvertently cause anxiety and stress to whistleblowers who want to expose wastage and mismanagement in government-led actions,” Akmal said in a statement today.
The PKR lawmaker pointed out that the MOH secretary-general’s statement contradicted Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s open calls for whistleblowers to contact him about allegations of vaccine queue-jumping.
“When health workers choose to make public statements by attaching pieces of evidence without revealing their identity, this is a signal that they are not confident in the government’s capability to protect the identity of those who make exposés.”
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said although MOH may have an official complaints channel, as stated by Shafiq, many complaints may still not undergo proper investigation until they are exposed in the media.
The DAP lawmaker cited a previous case of multiple sexual harassment complaints against a head of department at an MOH hospital in the Klang Valley.
“This is important as such allegations may concern VVIPs, which may give rise to the perception that it will likely be just swept under the carpet without proper investigation,” Dr Yii said in a statement.
“That is why we asked that these whistleblowers and frontliners be given adequate protection from any form of disciplinary action, especially one particular whistleblower medical officer who is being targeted by certain irresponsible quarters for her social media posts showing pictures of queue cutters.
“The government should not just praise these frontliners and make them look like heroes in the fight against Covid-19 when it is convenient for them, but when it is not, issue threats of disciplinary action against them.”