The villagers, predominantly of the Foochow community, knew each other well and many had continued with
their family business of pig
But things have changed since the
outbreak of the deadly viral
Like their neighbours in Kampung Sawah and Kampung Pelanduk, Sungai Nipah
villagers depended on pig farming for their
As more victims of the JE died, the
Cabinet stepped in to find solutions.
The job will not be an easy one,
particularly for Health Minister
Datuk Chua Jui Meng.
After all, we are dealing with human lives and the rice bowl of the community.
There are two important factors here.
First, lives must be saved and the
killer virus must be stopped fast.
The first death caused by the JE was in
Perak in October 1997 and the problem
does not appear to have ended.
The JE is not something new, that is the
sad part. Veterinary and health
authorities have been conducting research on the disease as far back as 1953.
We are now told there may be a second
virus about which we have little
The setting up of the Cabinet task force
means a concerted action has been taken.
The strategy involves destroying the animals with the help of the army and police; intensifying fogging to get
rid of the vector Culex mosquito;
vaccinating the farmers and people
living within a 2km radius of affected areas; and treating all JE patients in one special ward in government hospitals with specialist
The outbreak could not have come at a
worse time as the country's economy has yet to fully recover. The industry,
which is worth about RM2bil, has been
This is not the time to point fingers but to find solutions. No one should use the JE issue for selfish political reasons.
There is nothing more sinful than to
politicise the issue to score political
gains. Those who do are merely riding on
the miseries of the victims.
Politicians who merely issue press
statements and make visits to these
villages to incite anger are not helping
We need people who can handle the task
and help put the farmers back on their
It must be insane for anyone to even
imagine that the Government is
unconcerned about the JE problem.
There should be no racial or political considerations in handling this problem which has, in all intents and
purposes, become a national tragedy.
It speaks well for Malaysia that the
rearing of pigs has never been an issue
and it should be kept that way.
The pig farmers must understand the need to start afresh. That means the animals suspected to be infected have to be destroyed and the carcasses disposed of in a hygienic
There must be proper waste disposal management as it is an important aspect of
preventing any disease outbreak.
Every measure must now be taken to confine the disease to Negri Sembilan. It must not be allowed to become a nationwide epidemic.
More importantly, the industry must be
saved. Our pig farmers must modernise
their animal husbandry practices and go for centralised and integrated
When all this is over, the authorities should organise trips for these farmers to Taiwan and Japan to study the modern farming methods there.
To help these farmers go through this
rough patch, there is a need to initiate
some form of self help programmes, including credit facility to get the industry going again.
These farmers would need to pay off
their debts and to acquire the necessary
capital to restart their business.
The MCA, Federation of Chinese
Associations Malaysia, Associated
Chinese Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
and the Federation of Livestock Farmers
Associations must now be seen to
spearhead help programmes for the
victims and their families.
But we must also not forget the consumer
end. Malaysians must have access to
accurate information about the disease.
That means the Health Ministry must be
open and available to the media. The
media, on their part, must refrain from
publishing unsubstantiated reports which may
give rise to rumours.
There is also the educational aspect. Efforts must be made to inform Malaysians
about the correct and effective
preventive measures to take to check
This episode should also serve as a
lesson, especially to the authorities, on the need to be firm and decisive in
dealing with such situations.
The Veterinary Services Department plays a key role in this area, particularly the movement of animals. There
is obviously a need for better
The nation has gone through such episodes
before, although probably not of such
magnitude where human lives are at
It is better to be unpopular by making
firm decisions in the interest of the country and the people.