Director General of Health, Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham has come under fire for his recent recommendations to close Parliament for two weeks after several MPs tested positive for Covid-19.
This is an unexpected turn of events for the DG, who has for the most part successfully avoided the barrage of criticisms that Perikatan Nasional (PN) has faced during the course of the pandemic.
The perception that he is not a political player, but rather a dedicated civil servant trying to manage the complexities of a global pandemic has allowed DG Hisham to stay above the fray — up until now. His recent actions have caused Malaysians to second guess his impartiality.
The decision to suspend Parliament has been criticized as a political move to buy time for PM Mahiaddin and many are questioning why the Health DG is playing along.
It didn’t stop with just suspending Parliament, DG Hisham also tried to shut down a PAC meeting to discuss the issue of vaccine procurement earlier this week.
The chairman, Wong Kah Woh received a letter from the Dewan Secretary stating that the Health DG has suggested suspending the Select Committee meetings for two weeks but carried on despite the objections.
The closing of Parliament wouldn’t have triggered such a strong reaction if similar measures had been taken to stop the spread of the virus in other instances.
“Where was the concerned advice from DG Hisham when tens of people went back and forth to Muhyiddin’s house last week? Many of those people also attended Parliament? Selective concern?” asked Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil.
DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang also questioned the Health DG regarding his statement of Parliament possibly having a superspreader event.
“There were 11 cases out of 1,183 staff. If all 1,183 were tested, then the positivity rate is about 1% which is nowhere near superspreader status. The other justification for superspreader possibility is a new variant? Were genomic studies done? If so what are the results?” Lim Kit Siang asked in a statement released today.
Seremban MP Anthony Loke also blasted Dr Noor Hisham’s advice, saying that a positivity rate of only 1 per cent is not a good reason to close Parliament for two weeks.
The biggest change in public perception can be seen on twitter, where DG Hisham who was once heralded as a “National Hero” is now being dubbed as another political puppet.
DG Hisham’s fall from grace isn’t exactly swift.
A closer look will reveal that the Health DG has shown questionable behavior in the past as well.
Before the Parliament debacle, DG Hisham was called out by Damansara MP Tony Pua for presenting Covid-19 data without proper transparency.
“The Health DG must explain why the Health Ministry reduced the number of tests for 5 consecutive weeks throughout the MCO and FMCO period despite high, and subsequently rising positivity rates? The cynical might even deduce that it was a disingenuous attempt to report lower case numbers by clearly testing less.” said Pua in a July press statement.
To make matters worse, DG Hisham’s recent comments on the Hartal Doktor Kontrak movement shifted public opinion on his integrity quite a bit.
Many were left with a bad taste in their mouths when he implied that the demand for equal rights is equivalent to doctors’ abandoning their Hippocratic Oath.
Penang’s Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy had this to say:
“Noor Hisham, of all the persons, should know about the sad plight of the government contract doctors. There is no necessity to use psychology so that the contract doctors can defy the hartal.”
Some netizens went even further and cited DG Hisham’s past of using his platform to promote Umno during the 14th General Elections as an indicator that he is not above having political allegiances.
He was previously featured in Bersih’s Hall of Shame for tweeting his support for BN in breach of public service regulations. The Health Ministry had also used its official Facebook page to promote BN.
In any case, the Health DG still has time to mend his reputation by simply acting in the best interest of the Malaysian public and abandoning any politically motivated moves.