Hornbill Unleashed

October 22, 2013

Paying more for your medicines

Filed under: Medical,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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Fifa Rahman

Have we reached the point where we are so keen on appeasing the US government and big pharmaceutical companies?

In the fight against arbitrary provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), Malaysian civil society is increasingly nervous.

At this point, it certainly seems that from the hurried statements coming out of Washington DC and the (sometimes) matching commentary from Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, that negotiators are trying their very best to get the negotiations to an end point by the end of the year. (more…)

April 2, 2012

Sarawakian Spending RM40 for paracetamol

Peter Sibon

Closure of government clinic at Nanga Bena four years ago forced people there to travel to Kapit for basic medical treatment

FRUSTRATED: Ngebong giving the four-finger-up to show that RM40 is too much for a panadol.

Panadol (paracetamol) are dispensed free at government clinics and hospitals in the state, but for some 2,000 people from 16 longhouses at Nanga Bena, about 40km from here, there is an exorbitant hidden cost of RM40 for this common painkiller and fever medication.

Forty ringgit is the return fare to travel from their longhouses to the government hospital here. (more…)

March 24, 2012

1 Care: No point road show if you can’t answer the basics, Azizah tells Liow

1 Care: No point road show if you can't answer the basics, Azizah tells Liow

Wan Azizah Wan Ismail

We note the answer from Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai that the blueprint for the controversial 1Care health system will only be done in two years.

The Minister has also promised to launch a road show to explain and engage the public regarding the 1Care health system.

As mentioned in our earlier statement, we question the commitment of the Minister’s assurances with regards to his records vis-à-vis the Lynas controversy. (more…)

March 15, 2012

‘1Care will hurt undocumented Sarawakians’

Filed under: Medical,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:03 AM
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Keruah Usit

Juli, a pseudonym for a young woman I met in Kuching, was crippled at the age of 34 by tuberculosis of the spine.

Several months before, she had left her young children in the ‘ulu’, the hinterland, to travel six hours on a rough, rutted track to the nearest district hospital.

Juli told the young doctor there of back pain and lifeless legs. She was driven to the nearest referral hospital, three hours away, and underwent blood tests, X-rays and a CT scan.

She was sent from test to test, as helpless as if she had been on a wretched conveyer belt, like Graham Greene’s ill protagonist in his story ‘Under the Garden’. (more…)

February 13, 2012

Ill feelings over 1Care in Sarawak

Filed under: Human rights,Medical — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:01 AM
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Keruah Usit

The expected swing among Sarawakian and Sabahan voters away from the incumbent BN in the upcoming general election will be given an extra push if the BN presses ahead with its controversial 1Care health financing reforms, according to Sarawak PKR information chief See Chee How.

“This 1Care circus will cost BN votes,” See told Malaysiakini. “Poor rural people in Sarawak and Sabah – and their already neglected health – cannot afford to be held ransom to market forces.”

See argues that decent, free health care is a basic human right for all Malaysian citizens. (more…)

October 22, 2011

Who would sacrifice children’s lives for wealth?

Pak Bui

The BBC has produced a shocking report on child sacrifices in Uganda. The report described the growing superstition of newly wealthy businessmen, paying witch-doctors to mutilate and decapitate children to appease the spirits in the hope of increasing their riches.

Jubilee Campaign, a British Christian pressure group, is lobbying the government in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, to stop these child murders.

Official Ugandan police figures recorded only one child sacrifice investigated in 2006, but documented 29 deaths in 2009. The police told the BBC they are limited by a lack of funding.

According to the BBC, Jubilee estimates the true number of cases is in the hundreds, and claims more than 900 cases have yet to be investigated by the police because of corruption and a lack of resources. (more…)

October 20, 2011

Penan couple forced to borrow to pay hospital bill

Filed under: Medical,Penan,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:01 AM
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Keruah Usit

A young Penan couple from Long Napir, a tiny farming settlement in Ulu Limbang, Sarawak, were forced to pay admission charges to the Miri Hospital, even though their newborn baby girl died the day after she was delivered.

Roy Dumai, 26, and his wife Seri Yung, 25, were told by the hospital’s accounting section staff that they had to settle their bill. Otherwise, they were warned, Seri’s ‘medical antenatal card’, a record of her pregnancy and delivery, would be confiscated.

“After Seri was discharged, we were ordered to pay RM180, and we were treated very badly,” Roy said. “Some (billing) counter staff had their name tags turned the wrong way round, but I identified two of their names. They all behaved roughly. (more…)

March 13, 2011

An epic tragedy a valuable reminder to mankind

Filed under: Alternatives,Medical — Hornbill Unleashed @ 9:01 AM
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Sim Kwang Yang

On Friday morning, an unprecedented earthquake struck the island nation of Japan, bringing with it a massive tsunami wave reaching as far across the Pacific as South and North America.

This is a tragedy on an epic scale, which the world is grappling to come to terms with. Even at the time of writing, there are fears that more aftershocks will hit the coastlines of Japan in the coming days or weeks. (more…)

February 11, 2011


. Sarawak Report

The Sarawak Government has been covering up a health scandal by deliberately concealing the true level of maternal deaths, according to exclusive information which has been made available to Sarawak Report.

Concerned doctors and health professionals have been investigating the true level of inadequate health care provided in the state, which is the richest in terms of resources in the whole of Malaysia.  They say their findings show that the deaths of women in childbirth are far higher than are being admitted to in the official statistics, yet the spending on healthcare per person in the state is less than one quarter the amount spent on health care in West Malaysia! (more…)

August 6, 2010

Modern Day Slavery


Where there is demand there will be a supply: the law of economics applies even here, in the highly organised, lucrative and exploitative business of human trafficking.

In July, Kuching police trumpeted that they had smashed a baby-selling and human trafficking ring. A total of eight children, aged between one month and 12 years, were allegedly rescued from various locations around the city. A total of 17 people, including a Datuk and his wife, have been remanded and released on bail.

So far, no charges have been leveled against any of them at the time of writing this article.


July 7, 2010

A Wider Context of Sexual Exploitation of Penan Women

By Rosita Maja

The National Taskforce Report released in September 2009 (Laporan Jawatankuasa Bertindak Peringkat Kebangsaan Bagi Menyiasat Dakwaan Penderaan Seksual Terhadap Wanita Kaum Penan Di Sarawak), confirmed that the allegations of sexual violence and exploitation of Penan women and girls by loggers was true.

Another mission, by NGOs, was set up two months after the report was made available, because of the unsatisfactory response by the Sarawak state authorities, and their denial of the findings of the National Taskforce Report.

This new fact-finding mission was initiated by the Penan Support Group, a coalition of 36 NGOs, with the joint efforts of  FORUM-ASIA and the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN). The mission aimed to further explore and document the incidences of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation and to bring in new evidence to further confirm that the allegations of sexual abuse of Penan girls and women in Middle and Ulu Baram by loggers are indeed true. (more…)

July 6, 2010



c/o Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

Address: 433A, Jalan 5/46 Gasing Indah, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Tel: +60377843525 / 77835724

Fax: +60377843526

Email: suaram@suaram.net

Press Release: 6 July 2010



The fact-finding report

The fact-finding report, 

A Wider Context of Sexual Exploitation of Penan Women and Girls in Middle and Ulu Baram, Sarawak, Malaysia,

Downloadable PDF reports :-   Click Here

July 2, 2010

Feudal control over native hospitality

NONEBy Keruah Usit

THE ANTIDOTE Sarawak natives are famed for their hospitality. A hungry traveller in rural Sarawak will almost invariably find a host village willing to take him in, and feed and shelter him for the night.

In local mythology, Keling, a demigod and idealised warrior emulated by Iban men, has a penchant for bejalai, the tradition of wandering the earth. Keling often appears to longhouses as a stranger, in human likeness.

Villagers providing a gracious welcome are showered with blessings, while the converse is true for those who turn the stranger away. (more…)

April 10, 2010

The reluctant suicide

Filed under: Human rights,Medical,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:01 AM
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By Pak Bui

I remember my first visit to Lina, the only child of an acquaintance, when she found herself warded in a small district hospital. She was sitting upright in bed, trying to smile at me. She looked a little embarrassed.

Lina was fifteen at the time. She was a well-liked student, bright and cheerful. She was tall and slightly chubby, more a scholar than an athlete.

Her round, abashed face was tired. She had been admitted the night before and had not managed much sleep. The ward was quiet enough, with few fellow inmates, and with a cool evening forest breeze drifting through the windows. But she had been kept awake by nurses checking her blood pressure every hour. (more…)

March 8, 2010

Demon in the soul

Filed under: Alternatives,Media/Press,Medical — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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By Sim Kwang Yang

A FRIEND confessed to me over a cup of Chinese tea that his bouts of depression were returning with a vengeance. I was alarmed. It did sound like a cry for help, or for attention at least.

My 51-year-old friend should know. He has just recovered somewhat from an acute attack not long ago, after some medical treatment. But he did not like all those drugs that were prescribed, and now his depression has come back to haunt his nights and days.

He hinted darkly at some childhood experience as the root cause of his inner turmoil. I suggested psychiatric treatment. Perhaps some Malaysians doctors steeped in Western theory of psychiatry can help ease his sufferings, though I have not the faintest idea where such a doctor can be found. He did mumble something about hypnotism as a therapeutic tool. (more…)

November 6, 2009

The world of ageing

Kaypo Anak Sarawak is a Columnist  of  Hermit Hornbill at The Borneo Post Online , His article is  published  in The Borneo Post every Sunday. (Used by permission of the Author )

1022_C92ACCORDING to the definition established by the United Nations, an aged person is one who has reached or exceeded 60 years of age. That makes me an aged person. Of course, when you have passed the magic hurdle of 60, you think sometimes of the ‘Grim Reaper’, for there is no way of getting out of this life alive. But according to the national statistics for life expectancy, I should have 16 years more to go, if I am careful.

But life is hard to tell. A friend’s son aged 49 just died from a heart attack three days ago on the badminton court; he was given a clean bill of health 6 months ago by his doctor during a regular medical check up.

So I consider myself blessed, living in relatively good health, except for the mandatory conditions of the aged like diabetes, high blood pressure, and creaking joints.  I still contribute to the national GDP growth by my writing, a task I can do as long as I am sane and have two hands to do the typing on the computer keyboard.

The contribution to the GDP by the aged is an important issue for national economic planner.


October 17, 2009

Reading and writing with a pinch of salt

By Bunga Pakma


Last week I went to see my panel doctor, in order to get looked at and to pick up a renewal of medication.  After ten minutes the receptionist called me into Dr. S****’s office, and I sat myself down by the desk in the chair to which Dr. S waved me.

“Let’s take a look at your B.P., B.P., hehe.” He wrapped the cuff around my upper arm.

We had made some jokes before and taken the measure of each other, and I sure did appreciate Dr. S’s hokey humour.  It speaks of a sane and realistic approach to our precarious hold on well-being, not to mention mere being in the prospect of non-being.  A grave theologian, the Rev. Dean Swift, has written that “Health is worth preserving, though life is not.”

“Hm,” said Dr. S, after the air hissed out. “A little high, not too much. You walked here, didn’t you?” He gazed at me and with gentle suddenness his expression narrowed to one of scrutiny. He’d noted something.


October 9, 2009

Earthquake survivors shaken in Sumatra

By Pak Bui

shaken in sumatra

“The earthquake in Sumatra, that wrecked Padang,” a friend of mine told me, while we were walking down the street, “buried two thousand souls, it crushed 180,000 buildings.

“The scenes described on the BBC were heart-breaking. Padang people were telling the reporters how thousands were living on the streets, afraid to go back home, even if their houses were still standing. The local people were asking for the basics…for clean water.”

“It was the same in Banda Aceh, when I was there in 2005, three weeks after the Boxing Day tsunami. I was a young volunteer with a Malaysian NGO for a fortnight. When we were driving along the coastal road, kids would sprint out from their refugee camps and ask for bottled water. ‘Aqua! Aqua!’ they were shouting. We gave away as much as we could.


October 2, 2009

Police torment rape victim – but ignore rapists

By Pak Bui


Penan IR 01-10-2009-borneopost (3)The Sarawak Police have cemented their reputation of being humble servants for rich timber towkays, and their patrons in the State Cabinet.

The police provide, unquestioningly, the muscle needed to allow the tycoons and politicians to succeed in business. Sarawakians seeking security and justice for the weaker members of society need not apply for relief.

Sarawak Deputy Commissioner of Police Hamza Taib announced on September 30 that the police will question four people, who helped a Penan woman from Long Item, Baram, escape to safety in Kuala Lumpur last October.

The Penan woman was known by a pseudonym “Bibi” in the national task force report on rape, while her alleged rapist was called “Johnny” (known locally as Ah Heng, according to Penan villagers).

From his pronouncements, Hamza appeared adamant that the police report, made by “Bibi” in Long Lama on September 28, was genuine. At the Long Lama police station, the 22 year old woman claimed she had been “conned” by an unnamed Penan man, into going to Kuala Lumpur to make a report of rape against her so-called husband, “Johnny” or Ah Heng, a mechanic in an Interhill timber camp near Long Item.


September 19, 2009

East Malaysia beats West – in concern for the sick

By Pak Bui

Doctors and nurses“It may come as a surprise to you, but Sarawakian and Sabahan nurses are, on the whole, streets ahead of West Malaysian ones,” a doctor friend told me.

“Honestly?” I asked. “The hospitals I’ve seen here always look overcrowded, much worse than the ones in KL. Except the private ones, of course, which are nice and quiet – like hotels, smelling of disinfectant.”

“Well, in fact, most of my friends in government hospitals agree with me,” my friend insisted. “Doctors and nurses seem more dedicated – and more inventive, too – than in the West. The buildings and equipment in Sarawak and Sabah aren’t adequate, of course, but many of the people working there try hard, at least.”

“Have you worked all over Malaysia, then?” I asked the good doctor.

“Yes, various places, in Sabah, Sarawak, West Malaysia, I’ve seen private healthcare and government hospitals…but the mindset in many Sarawak and Sabah doctors and nurses is different from those in West Malaysia.” (more…)

September 16, 2009

Sarawakians not forgotten

Sim Kwang Yang

355ec192ed2d31a4e1ed7d615d0b514bI write an article entitled 2Malaysia in health services published in Malaysiakini on September 5, grumbling about the problem of health care in rural Sarawak. I was quite pleasantly surprised to read a letter to the editor of Malaysiakini on September 14 from the Director-General of the Ministry of Health Mohd Ismail Merican.

I reproduce his reply here on HU. Since I am not so much in the know about Sarawak health service, I leave it to those Sarawakians who are better placed in the system to check whether what the KSU said is true or not.

Sarawakians not forgotten

Dr Mohd Ismail Merican

This is in response to the article 2 Malaysia in Health Services by Sim Kwang Yang: The health ministry expresses our appreciation of your concern regarding the health care provision for the people of Sarawak, especially those living in the interior.

Sarawak has never been left out. However, due to geographical constraints, the remote interior of Sarawak is not as easily accessible as one would wish. (more…)

September 6, 2009

Why Sarawak’s emergency airlift service matters

By Pak Bui

cut footJau, a 19 year old Penan man from a remote village, was chopping open a coconut one day, using his foot to steady the coconut. Jau’s foot slipped and he suffered a cut on his left foot.

The wound was small and shallow, but painful. James bound it to stop the bleeding, and bore the pain, as the stoic Penan usually do. He went on farming and hunting. Hunting is Jau’s greatest love, as well as his means of making a living.

Two days later he noticed his wound had become infected. Jau walked five hours to the nearest government clinic. The medical assistant there gave him some painkillers and penicillin tablets, saying he had no other antibiotics. (more…)

September 4, 2009

Flying Doctors Grounded

flying Doctor

The Flying Doctor Service and Emergency Medevac Service, an important service provided by the health department to provide minimal health services to 158 stations of more than 500 remote rural native communities in Sarawak, is allegedly crippled for the past 2 years and 9 months.

How many deaths of the rural natives could have been avoided have there been regular Emergency Medevac Service?

There ought to be an independent inquiry into Sarawak’s crippled Flying Doctor Service and Emergency Medevac Service, said Parti Keadilan Rakyat (The People’s Justice Party).

In a statement issued at a press conference in Kuching today (03.09.2009), the party’s National Strategy Director and Member of Parliament Tian Chua said that he will bring up the matter to the Malaysian Parliament but said that this basic health care service ought to be addressed immediately.

Full text of the press statement: (more…)

August 3, 2009

Discrimination against Mak Nyah

Filed under: Medical — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:01 AM
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By Rosita Maja

trans-sexualsAni said, at an interview with a group of trans-sexuals or Mak Nyah, I was stopped by two policemen while crossing the road. A body search was done on me. A condom was found and the police suspected that I am a sex worker. I am not a sex worker. I am operating a nasi lemak stall and work hard to earn a living and support my aged parents at home”.

The group of Mak Nyah at the interview asked: is it against the law to carry a condom? Do the police need a crash course in the law to know that possessing a condom is not a criminal offence?

Pin went on to say, “One afternoon, I was having an afternoon nap in my own house. A few men appeared at my gate, in plain-clothes. I was questioned on my identity, and who I was staying with, in the house. (They said) that there were complaints that I am providing sex services in the house! But I am not involved in any sex trade. Maybe it’s the way I look, being a Mak Nyah!” (more…)

July 31, 2009

In Sickness and in Health

Filed under: Alternatives,Medical — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:01 AM
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By Pak Bui


Blood vessels Medcurator“Once I was working overnight, as a junior doctor,” a friend told me, “when I was called to see a man in his 70s. He was at death’s door. He had a bleeding aneurysm in his abdomen.”

“What’s a bloody aneurysm?” I asked, patiently.

“It’s a swelling in the biggest blood vessel in the body. It’s usually caused by high blood pressure. The vessel had started to leak. The old man was already unconscious. I was asked to break the bad news to his wife,” the doctor explained.

The doctor and I were sitting in a cement car park outside a coffee shop, at dusk. The traders were laying out their plastic furniture. Smoke from barbecue stalls rose in the air. It was a peaceful time of day, in between the hectic daytime bustle and the alcohol-fuelled nocturnal clatter. (more…)

July 10, 2009

A Plague on All Our Houses

Filed under: Education,Medical — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:22 AM
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By Pak Bui

SwineFluThe burgeoning H1N1 flu pandemic has cast a little light on our Malaysian society. Many Malaysians are anxious. They scan the news sites and newspapers, looking for some clue that they may be the subjects of tomorrow’s headlines. A few are panicky.

Some are irritated and grumpy. They complain endlessly about travel restrictions, about queues to have their temperature tested, about schools being closed, and especially about being quarantined.

People are furious that the number of visitors to hospital wards was limited. It was reported that one visitor to a hospital in Sarawak grabbed a scrawny security guard by the lapels. He was shouting, “If I get sick it’s my own business! What’s it to you?” (more…)

June 27, 2009

Malaysia, truly Asia’s bully

By Pak Bui

refugee1A few years ago, I watched an unregistered, or “illegal”, Indonesian timber camp worker, taken to a small district hospital, with a broken body. The young man had been injured badly in a logging accident. He had died during the two-day truck drive from the logging camp.

I stood among a small crowd of onlookers, watching the Indonesian’s body being removed from the logging truck. One burly hospital attendant lifted the young Indonesian in his arms, as one might carry a sleeping child, or, as Michelangelo depicted, the Madonna might have held her son’s body. (more…)

June 10, 2009

Violence and Forced Sex In Marriage is no “ Personal Matter ”

Filed under: Legal,Medical — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:30 AM
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By Rosita Maja  @ Hueditor

14c2267874cc6ee5d2017fd99d33107eThe Story of Princess Manohara Odelia Pinot made international headline news last week. The 17-year-old Indonesian was quoted as saying her husband had treated her “like an animal”. Manohara claimed that she was treated as a toy by her husband, and that she was sexually, physically and mentally abused. She alleged she was raped, abused and tortured during her nine months of marriage with Tengku Muhammad Fakhry, 32, a Kelantan Prince.

During a trip to Singapore with the prince, Manohara was rescued by her mother and fled back to Indonesia, with the help of the Singaporean police, and officials from both the Indonesian and American embassies,

Matrimonial and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a criminal offence under the Domestic Violence Act 521 (1994).
It is certainly not a “personal or a private” matter. (more…)

June 5, 2009

Another Project by BN…falls to pieces

By Pak Bui @ Hueditor


The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s main hospital, has been crippled since last year. Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai admitted last October that the main QEH tower block, housing 250 beds, the forensic medicine block, and the boiler room, had all been deemed unsafe. Hospital staff and patients had been sounding the alarm for eight long years, terrified by pieces of concrete dropping to the floor in the wards and toilets.

There followed a chaotic period of scrambling for beds. QEH patients were bounced around to private hospitals, including the high-priced private Sabah Medical Centre (SMC), and the Beaufort District Hospital, half a day’s travel away for patients and their families. (more…)

May 31, 2009



By Rosita Maja @ Hueditor

RapeOn May 22, 2009, Ivy  (not her real name), a 14 year old schoolgirl, was making her way from her secondary school, to wait for her parents at the usual appointed meeting place at the roadside. On her way there, she had to climb an overhead bridge. On the bridge, at 3.30pm, she was stopped by a man at the top of the bridge.

The incident was caught on closed circuit television (CCTV), from a nearby petrol station. An interview with the petrol station staff later, disclosed that they had heard a commotion on the bridge. (more…)

May 20, 2009

Parangs against the bulldozer: the tale of one Sarawak mountain

By Sim Kwang Yang

Padan BeachThe sky over Pandan Beach, about 100 kilometres from the Sarawak capital of Kuching, must be one of the most beautiful corners of the universe.  No words can describe its brilliance.  No human artist can ever recreate its splendour.  When you lift your head to the vast expanse of glorious colours against the deep azure background, you have to believe in a God.

Kampong Pandan is a small Malay fishing village consisting of traditional stilted wooden houses lining the water’s edge along a small bay.  The village is nestled against the backdrop of the twin-peaked mountain, the Gunung Gading.  Partly hidden by swaying coconut palms and short brushes, Kampong Pandan is the very picture of idyllic seaside rural charm.  Its picture-perfect serenity could have been what Joseph Conrad tried to portray in Almayer’s Folly. (more…)

May 18, 2009

Juni: Daughter, sister, unwilling mother

By Keruah Usit   @ MalaysiaKini (Used by permission of the Author )

“Juni visited her social worker for the first time when she was seven months into her pregnancy,” a lawyer friend told me.


“She had just seen a doctor. Her doctor sent her to the social worker because Juni had no birth certificate, no identity card. Her father, Seman, had an IC, but her mother, Flora, didn’t. Flora had been born far from the town, and she’d never been to the Registration Department.

“Flora and Juni went to the social worker’s office, hoping they’d receive help to have their ICs done. The social worker, Ana, asked her to fill in some forms and gave them a small amount of money to help with the fare on the ‘van sapu’ (illegal taxis) to get home, and sent her away,” the lawyer explained.

May 6, 2009

A tale of two Malaysias

By Keruah Usit

We live in at least two Malaysias.

One Malaysia is full of gleaming buildings, sharp points scraping the sky as if trying to puncture the Shakespearean myth that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.


In this Malaysia, metal Jaguars and shining Prancing Horses fly along broad expressways. Here, food is a status symbol and friendship is often a commodity.

the antidote article sarawak natives life in interior sarawak 050509 03Then there is another Malaysia, where treated water is available to less than half the population, where the ratio of teachers to students, or doctors to patients, is greater than 3,000 to 1, and the nearest school or hospital may be many hours’ trek away.

Here, in rural Sabah or Sarawak, very few own a car or a truck because of poverty and no roads.

In both Malaysias, however, illness and death are inevitable. The way the two different worlds deal with these two issues further illuminate the gulf between us. The following are a few examples.

The contempt we have for the poor


May 4, 2009

Swine, Flu and Fortitude

Filed under: Alternatives,Media/Press,Medical,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 5:01 AM
Tags: ,

By Pak Bui

flu_und_legende_color_cSwine or pig flu has been given a new name by the World Health Organization (WHO): Influenza A H1N1, or H1N1 Flu. The change reflects the WHO’s warning that H1N1 is now a human flu virus, even though it originated from swine. Like other human flu viruses, it can spread from human to human, causing fever, muscle pains, cough, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea or vomiting. It cannot be spread by eating cooked pork.

Most people with this H1N1 flu have had mild illness, and have recovered. But this strain of flu is very contagious, and can cause lung infections and severe illness as well, especially in people whose defence is not very strong. The WHO points out that elderly people above 65, and young children below 5, have weak defences, as do people with HIV, those who have undergone chemotherapy and pregnant women. People with lung disease, too, caused by long-term smoking, or asthma, tend to get lung infections more readily with flu. The WHO has advised these groups to see the doctor straight away if they have flu symptoms or fever. (more…)

May 2, 2009

Deciphering Kugan’s post-mortem reports


kugan-deathHelen Ang’s compelling column article “Placating Kugan’s Ghost” raised a valid question about the bewildering amount of medical jargon used by the Director-General of Health, Tan Sri Datuk Haji Dr Ismail Haji Mohd Merican, when the Health Ministry presented the findings of its official inquiry into the cause of Kugan’s death.

kugan-death-pickugan-death-pic1It is a matter of national importance, as well as personal importance for Kugan’s bereaved family, to try to shed some light into the dense fog generated by all this professional jargon. The Bernama report of the Health Ministry’s announcement quoted the Director-General as saying that Kugan Ananthan, 22, died of fluid in the lungs (“pulmonary oedema”), caused by inflammation of the heart muscle (“myocarditis”). The inquiry asserted that there had been blunt force injuries to Kugan’s body but these “were insufficient to cause death directly”, as there were no broken bones or ruptured internal organs. The Director-General mentioned that myocarditis is a well-recognised cause of sudden death in young people. The Ministry’s findings were based on the post-mortem report produced by the Ministry’s forensic expert, Senior Forensic Pathologist, Dr Abdul Karim Tajuddin, from Serdang Hospital in Selangor .

On the other hand, Universiti Malaya Medical Centre Pathologist, Dr Prashant N Samberker, who had examined Kugan’s body at the request of Kugan’s family, concluded that death had resulted from acute renal (kidney) failure. The kidney failure was caused by rhabdomyolysis, Dr Prashant reported, due to blunt trauma to the muscles. Rhabdomyolysis, or muscle breakdown, is a well-recognised result of trauma to the muscles, especially with prolonged or repeated injuries. Rhabdomyolysis releases poisons from injured or dead muscles into the blood, and the poisons cause kidney failure. Kidney failure, in turn, can cause inflammation of the heart lining, and can cause pulmonary oedema. If the kidneys shut down, fluid cannot be removed from the body in the urine, and fluid can then accumulate in the lungs. Kugan was detained and interrogated for five days before he died: more than enough time for severe kidney failure and fluid retention to develop.


May 1, 2009

Crime, Punishment and Torture

By Pak Bui


My car window was smashed by a man on a motorcycle, outside a coffee shop at dusk, one evening. A passerby gave chase on his motorcycle and saw the thief’s licence plate, but the thief escaped. I went to the central police station to make a report. The policewoman on duty wrote the thief’s licence plate number down. Then she asked “Jadi, mengapa mahu buat laporan ni?” I explained patiently that I wanted to prevent future crimes.

I was referred to another police station. The detectives on duty there were nothing like the intelligent, glamorous types we see on television. An elderly man’s bag had been stolen while he was practising tai chi. One detective joked the old man should have used some other martial art to stop the thief. My tour of the stations, in my car with newly improved ventilation, took three hours. The report came to nothing: the licence plate was a fake.

Violent crimes increasing nationwide

Violent crime rates, of far more concern than a broken car window, are increasing. Even in Sarawak, traditionally a tranquil place, most people know someone whose bag has been snatched, or whose house has been broken into, or who has been robbed.

Crime rates have long been on the rise, too, in Peninsular Malaysia. Last month, in Cheras, Selangor, a young woman was abducted at noon in front of a bank, and bundled into a Honda CR-V, while her husband sat waiting in a car. The woman was released five hours later. No ransom was mentioned in the Star newspaper report. District police chief, Assistant Commissioner Ahmad Amir Mohd Hashim, was quoted as saying “We do not have much information yet but we will make some arrests soon.” Perhaps a lack of information is no obstacle to making arrests in Cheras: the police might simply round up the usual suspects.

Crime statistics are malleable (more…)

April 29, 2009

A crime against Tania’s humanity

Keruah Usit | Apr 29, 09 10:08am @ MalaysiaKini

Tania was in Form Four when she first visited a timber camp. She was a lively girl of 15, well-liked among her schoolmates. Like all her friends, Tania enjoyed swimming, playing netball and making fun of boys in her small rural school in Sarawak. Like many teenage girls, she was impatient to grow up, see the world, meet the man of her dreams and start a family of her own.

the antidote article sarawak native logging school children 280409 06At the end of one school term, four years ago, when all the children were returning to their far-flung villages, Tania was picked up by a 4×4 truck.

A large timber company, which was operating a concession in her village’s area, owned the truck. The driver should have sent Tania back home, three hours’ drive by logging track. Instead, the driver took her to one of the timber camps about an hour’s drive of her school.

Almost all of Tania’s schoolmates were boarders at their remote secondary school. The students’ villages were spread out far and wide – a day’s walk, or even further, from the school. To get home for a term break, or go back to school, they climbed into three-tonne monster logging trucks, or they squeezed like blue-and-white livestock, into the open back of a 4×4 logging vehicle.

April 26, 2009

Finding Our Own Way

By Pak Bui

Any future, enlightened Sarawak Chief Minister will have to crack his or her head for a workable blueprint for Sarawak’s economy, after the wrecking job done over the past three decades. Most discussions on Sarawak’s economic future boil down to following a richer country’s model, notably Singapore and China.

We are reminded that China has produced GDP growth of greater than 7% every year since official figures were released in 1992. In 2009, during the most painful recession in memory for every other major economy, China’s massive economy is still expected to grow, albeit at a slower rate. The latest quarterly figure shows impressive GDP growth of 6.1% for China, even if this is the lowest since official records began. However, before we are carried away by annual growth rates, it is worth bearing in mind that China’s GDP growth began from a low per capita baseline in 1992 – the only way was up, in fact. Even now, the per capita income in China is lower than in many developing nations, despite impressive growth statistics. (more…)

April 12, 2009

Is universal and free health care for all Sarawakians possible?

By Sim Kwang Yang (SKY)

The sad story of the poor Penan woman in Cancerland is the reason for my story to-day.

I went to study at the University of Winnipeg in Canada in 1971, having been turned away by Malaysian universities for the usual reasons. Upon registration at the university and on the strength of my overseas student card alone, I was given comprehensive health insurance, for which I had to pay 4.50 Canadian Dollars per month.

My Canadian experience

I received excellent health care from the university clinic, the kind that was never available in Sarawak. My haemorrhoid that had haunted me for years disappeared.

After a couple of years, the state owned Manitoba Hydro which generates electricity for the entire province of Manitoba, of which Winnipeg is the capital, offered to pay for all health insurance for all the residents. Universal free health care was made available, even to an overseas student like me.

My Canadian job

I did not get a scholarship for my study, again for obvious reasons. The first summer holiday, I decided to work to supplement what little funds I had. I went to work as a nursing orderly at a local private medical facility that cared for the disabled in Manitoba.

The pay was quite good. I got an hourly wage of 4 Canadian Dollar per hour. (The exchange rate was about 2.3 Ringgit to the Canadian Dollar then.) After a few years, I rose to be the senior orderly, and made 7 Canadian Dollars per hour. In the 70s, that was big money.

During Christmas seasons, all the local Canadians (more…)

April 11, 2009

Alice in Cancerland

“Sometimes we are too engrossed in the grand political narratives, and we lose sight of the ordinary Sarawakian. The following story below about a sick Sarawakian lady makes up for that neglect – Sky”

By Keruah Usit

f_02mindy1Alice was already a young mother when she found out she had cancer of the nose. She was in her mid-twenties, the target age of trashy magazines and “natural-looking cosmetics”. She had a shy smile and dimples in her cheeks, and she had passed on her pretty smile and dimples to her two little daughters.

Alice’s husband Abel, a hunter and farmer, loved her, and, unlike most other husbands the world over, listened to her. Her small children hung on to her every word.

Alice lived by a river in rural Sarawak, three hundred kilometres (as the helicopter flies) from the nearest hospital. She had noticed a swelling growing around her left eye for six months, but she could not afford the two hundred Ringgit it cost to get to Miri Hospital.

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