Stop the harassment of Boo Su-Lyn - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, June 29, 2020
Malaysiakini : “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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Independent committees like these
cause embarrassments to the government machinery because of the
revelations they uncover. The Wang Kelian inquiry, for instance, where
147 mass graves were found in alleged human trafficking camps in Perlis,
managed to reveal a little of the bureaucratic underbelly unseen by the
Boo was merely the messenger. She was doing her
part in ensuring the rakyat were aware of the facts that the independent
investigation unearthed. She was not making any allegations against any
parties beyond reporting and presenting the findings which, no doubt,
vexed corporate, political and institutional interests. Why is it important to intimidate the press for reporting the findings of an independent government commission?
instance, this report pointed out the deficiencies in the Bomba. This,
of course, alerts the rakyat that there is a problem in the way how this
particular government agency interacts with the bureaucracy and the
political apparatus. So, of course, if a government fears transparency,
they would object to the findings of this independent commission being
The government, of course, has no problem using the
Bomba service as propaganda, especially when it came to the death of
firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim. Do you see the difference in the
way the state attempted to use the Bomba and hampered questions of the
dysfunction of the agency?
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 extract of the transcript between then-Johor state Fire and Rescue
Department director Othman Abdullah and Suhakam chairperson Mohd
Hishamudin Yunus (above) and you would be shocked to discover the
passivity of the Bomba services when it came to the lack of compliance
by the hospital and which was defined as a “fire hazard”:
agreed with the chairperson's suggestions that the hospital had
displayed a nonchalant attitude by not taking measures for 14 years to
obtain a fire certificate and, in the process, endangered patients and
hospital staff. The Fire and Rescue Department official also agreed that
it was Bomba’s responsibility to take stern action.”
because the Bomba, according to the investigation by the commission, did
not want to sanction a government agency. In the words of Othman, it
would create “havoc” – "Kebiasaannya, kalau premis kerajaan ini, bila
kita ambil tindakan mahkamah, dia akan berhenti sampai ke peringkat TPR
(Timbalan Pendakwa Raya). Dia tidak bawa terus ke mahkamah."
(Usually, for government premises, when we take court action, it will
usually stop at the deputy public prosecutor. It will not be taken all
the way to court.)”
In 2016, then Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam (below) denied
in Parliament that he was “…shielding a private medical support
services company amid questions in the wake of six fatalities resulting
from a fire at the Hospital Sultanah Aminah".
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:
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. As Boo said, all this is a distraction, so I will end this piece on where this editor believed the focus should be on.
The victims of this tragedy:
Choo Lin Fung
Toh Ah Wah