Malaysia's top health official says he isn't 'scared to die' after criticism over not visiting coronavirus hot spot Sabah

Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said he had visited Sabah in August, before the state polls on Sept 26, 2020. PHOTO: NOOR HISHAM ABDULLAH/FACEBOOK

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's most prominent health worker Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on Wednesday (Nov 11) rebutted a bizarre claim by a government lawmaker that he was "scared to die" and had not visited Sabah state, where the Covid-19 pandemic is rampant.

"The issue that we are afraid to die does not arise. As a Muslim, we accept that death can happen anywhere, not just whether we go to the ground or not," the director-general (DG) of Health, Tan Sri Noor Hisham said.

"What is important is for us to do our duty. Our purpose is to break the chain of infection in the country.

"We can have our differences, but what is important is to break the chain of infection, so that we can save the country from an increase of cases and the death rates," Dr Noor Hisham told the media at his daily briefing on the pandemic.

Sarawak MP Tiong King Sing caused an uproar in Parliament when he claimed that while many health officials had visited Sabah, Dr Noor Hisham and other top officials have not gone there, local media quoted him as saying.

"Why didn't he go down to the ground?

"For instance, in Kota Kinabalu now the situation is bad. Why didn't he visit all the hospitals and the temporary hospitals?

"Only doctors and nurses were told to go. They are not afraid to die," Datuk Seri Tiong said as quoted by The Star daily.

"But is the DG scared to die? Even his deputy did not go down, " he said when debating the Supply Bill in Parliament.

A shouting match was then triggered between the government lawmaker and opposition MPs.

Opposition lawmaker Mr RSN Rayer demanded Mr Tiong respect front liners in the fight against Covid-19, and apologise to Dr Noor Hisham.

Mr Rayer, who is from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), was ejected from Parliament by the deputy Speaker after refusing to sit down unless Mr Tiong apologised.

Dr Noor Hisham said, as quoted by Malay Mail online news, that he had visited Sabah in August, before the state polls on Sept 26.

"I have myself visited Sabah at the end of August to see the management and preparation for Sabah state election and I have instructed my deputies to visit Sabah last week and see the issues they are facing."

"So there is no issue of being afraid of death," he said.

Mr Tiong later issued a statement to say that he was merely reflecting the frustrations of front liners and Malaysians over the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I reiterate once again that, during the debate of the Supply Bill 2021 in Parliament Wednesday, I did not intend to maliciously target Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

"Rather, my words reflect the frustrations of the front liners and the people for the past several months.

"DAP MPs such as RSN Rayer should not take advantage of my words for cheap publicity in the guise of 'defending civil servants'," he said.

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