Hoepfully, the Bintulu MP is fully aware of the hurt he has caused, not only to the health director general’s professional standing but also to the indefatigable health frontline personnel, Mustafa K Anuar writes.
The MP who accused Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah of not visiting Sabah at the height of the pandemic for fear of death has eventually apologised.
Progressive Democratic Party president and Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing hurled this accusation on 11 November in the august chamber of the Dewan Rakyat, stubbornly refusing to retract his “takut mati” (afraid to die) remark despite Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azalina Othman offering him the chance to do so.
Noor Hisham did, in fact, visit Sabah prior to the state’s election in late September.
Tiong even accused Noor Hisham of “seeking publicity” to aid in the latter’s supposed hidden agenda of gaining the position of World Health Organisation (WHO) secretary-general, an apparent reference to his daily press briefings.
In his earlier defence, Tiong argued that his remarks were meant to reflect the frustrations of frontliner personnel and the people in the way the pandemic is being handled by the Ministry of Health.
The outburst, which was boorish, especially for the level of a special envoy of the prime minister to China, drew brickbats not only from opposition politicians but also social media users who found the remarks to be crass and unfair.
Tiong’s apology came a tad too late, considering that his verbal spasm had caused unnecessary commotion in Parliament, what with shouting matches between opposition and government MPs.
Worse, DAP’s Jelutong MP RSN Rayer, who demanded Tiong’s retraction and came to Noor Hisham’s defence, was expelled from the Dewan Rakyat by Azalina.
In a sense, Rayer’s conscientious objection was vindicated by Tiong’s belated apology and, hence, his expulsion was most unfortunate. A careful and impartial handling of this issue by the deputy speaker would have been a virtue.
The apparent silence of Health Minister Dr Adham Baba over this issue left Noor Hisham to defend himself, saying that, as a Muslim, he does not fear death as it can happen anywhere.
Adham’s seeming silence may cast an impression of him not being on the ball again, as exemplified previously by his insistence that a gulp of warm water could wash away the coronavirus, and also his gaffe over his claim that the WHO has 500 member nations.
That said, it is, however, comforting that Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali subsequently defended and commended Noor Hisham for his excellent and tireless work.
As for Tiong, it is hoped that he is fully aware of the hurt he has caused, not only to Noor Hisham’s professional standing, but also the indefatigable health frontline personnel who put their lives on the line on a daily basis.
Additionally, the MP-cum-envoy should by now be accustomed to using diplomatic language as opposed to street-level lingo. Finesse is sorely missing here.
As it is, the Dewan Rakyat is short of time as a result of the drastic snipping of parliamentary meeting time amid the pandemic. The Tiong brouhaha is an unnecessary distraction indeed.
There should always be a conscious attempt on the part of MPs to enhance the standard of discourse in the august chamber, while at the same time, maintaining the required decorum.
An apology should not necessarily be regarded as a sign of weakness. In circumstances such as this one, it significantly separates boys from gentlemen and girls from ladies.