KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 – Dr Zaliha Mustafa has reminded Ministry of Health (MOH) staff about existing rules in the civil service, including the MOH, that prohibit staff from making public comments on government policy.
The health minister cited Regulation 19(1) of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993 that states clearly that public officers cannot, either verbally or in writing, make any public statement that can “harm” whatever government policy, plan, or decision on whatever issue.
Under that regulation, civil servants are also prohibited from making public statements that can “humiliate or badmouth” the name of the government, as well as from making any comments on the “weaknesses” of whatever government policy, plan, or decision.
In Dr Zaliha’s written Dewan Negara reply Tuesday to Senator Zurainah Musa, the health minister also cited Regulation 19(2) that prohibit civil servants from, either verbally or in writing, making any remarks on the “advantages” of whatever government policy, plan, or decision; giving whatever information based on the facts related to the functioning of the government; or providing any explanation related to whatever incident or report involving the government.
This is “unless written permission, either in general or specifically, has been obtained from the Minister, except announcements related to issues that are operational in nature or the implementation of any issue that has been decided by the government from time to time or based on current laws”.
“The Ministry of Health (MOH) has also issued the ‘Policy on the Prohibition of Making Public Statements MOH 2021’ and the ‘Ethics of Using Social Media by MOH Staff’ on August 9, 2016, besides periodic reminders to all MOH staff to always have integrity and prudence when using social media,” said Dr Zaliha.
Zurainah had asked the health minister about MOH’s policy on staff who give statements to the media about the situation in public health care facilities on condition of anonymity, and whether it was true that MOH was investigating its own staff related to a survey conducted by CodeBlue.
“Investigations involving MOH staff are conducted based on complaints that are received and managed according to procedures of investigation that have been set,” Dr Zaliha said in response.
In comments to Malaysiakini last month, Dr Zaliha denied CodeBlue editor-in-chief Boo Su-Lyn’s complaint of a “witch hunt” against health care workers who participated in CodeBlue’s nationwide January poll among more than 1,600 staff in the public health service. “Nothing as such,” she was quoted saying.
The “Policy on the Prohibition of Making Public Statements Ministry of Health”, issued by the MOH’s Integrity Unit in October 2021, states that violations of the policy – which cited Regulations 19(1) and 19(2) of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993 – can be considered a breach of orders and subject to disciplinary action.
According to the “Ethics of Using Social Media by MOH Staff”, issued in 2016, the principles on social media usage by MOH staff – whether for official or personal reasons – are the same as for other types of other media.
“Any comments on issues involving agencies or in the form of personal attacks must be avoided. The accuracy and sensitivity of information that one wishes to deliver must be checked prior,” states the ethics guideline.