Hornbill Unleashed

February 18, 2012

Why Malaysia needs healthcare reform

Keruah Usit

The government’s proposed 1Care health financing reforms have fuelled a fiery debate, not least because the ruling party’s record in privatisation exercises has been abysmal.

Critics of 1Care warn that the planned RM44 billion national health insurance fund would be the largest Umno cash cow to be fattened for slaughter in our nation’s history.

According to critics like Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim, the opening speaker at last Sunday’s public forum on 1Care in Petaling Jaya, the potential for corruption and leakages would be immense. (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 19, 2011

‘How did our baby die?’

Joseph Tawie

PKR has called for an inquest into the death of a Penan infant allegedly due to negligence on the part of the Miri hospital.

A Penan couple from Long Napir in Ulu Limbang are demanding that the state medical authorities conduct an inquest into the death of their newborn infant on Oct 15, 2011 in the Miri Hospital.

Taking the hospital to task for its negligence and insensitivity, angry Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, who is also a lawyer said, the couple also want to know how their baby died when they had adhered to the advise of the doctor.

“It is tragic that a precious life was lost. I have been instructed by the parents of the girl, Roy Dumai and Seri Yung, who are Penans from Long Napir in Ulu Limbang to write to the Miri Hospital and the Health Department, asking for representation for the inquest and to be furnished reports of the infant mortality review. (more…)

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…)

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 5, 2009

2Malaysia; Sarawak rural healthcare, how?

By Sim Kwang Yang

img_healthcare_dsIf you are sick, you go to a neighbourhood clinic to see the local GP, get diagnosed, and with a jab and some pills, your minor problems will disappear after a few days.

If you are very sick, you can check into a public or private hospital, and prompt attention will be given to you.  Medical expertise and expensive equipment are at your finger tips, as long as you can pay the bills.

You tend to take urban health care facilities for granted.

But imagine this: if you are a Malaysian citizen living in the remote regions of Sarawak (or Sabah), what do you do when you get sick?

You try the old ways through consultation with the old folk and the local healer, and you will be treated with folk medicine made from herbs and roots.  Then, you try to sleep off the sickness. (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…)

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 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 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 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.


April 28, 2009

Release report on rape of Penan women now



By Apang, Zhang M. L. & Voon

The story started …

f_02mindy1The Penan and other indigenous peoples of Sarawak have been struggling publicly for land rights over two decades now. Without these rights being respected and protected, communities have either lost or continue to lose their lands to timber companies, mono-crop plantations and other supposed development projects.

Along with such model of development come workers, from outside mostly, who suddenly live nearby the indigenous communities. With mostly male workers, it wasn’t long that rape and sexual abuses occurred.

The first known case was a document by a NGO Fact-Finding mission which began in 1995 and followed up in 1996. The final report, published in 2000, and accessible online at documented, among others, the rape of a minor Penan girl in Long Mobui in Upper Baram River in the Miri Division. Two police reports were subsequently lodged. However, there is no known follow-up action from the police to date.

The latest cases that came to light was when the Switzerland-based NGO, the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) broke the news in early October 2008. When the mainstream Malaysian media published the story with details after a visit to several Middle Baram Penan communities, the nation was awakened to the rape and sexual abuse of vulnerable Penan girls. (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.

April 4, 2009

Najib and Taib: An Arresting Couple

By Pak Bui

Recalling 1987

Operation Lalang on October 27, 1987 was the last time the ISA was used on a “megaproject” scale – the biggest crackdown siunce May 13, 1969. Mahathir Mohamad used the ISA against his opponents, when his position as Umno president was challenged by Tengku Razaleigh.

Mahathir had just won the Umno election amid furious allegations of cheating. Umno was turned into a new party – or was it? Um, no it wasn’t, it stayed the same old racist party it always was.

Faced with a divided party, Mahathir adopted a traditional Umno solution: stir up racial hatred, declare a threat to national security, and jail political opponents. Then relax, lean back and watch an uplifting American family TV programme like Eight is Enough.

Mahathir’s critics were seized in a bully’s binge: 106 politicians, environmentalists (including Harrison Ngau Laing in Sarawak), religious converts, social workers and teachers were sent out of sight, out of mind, and certainly well out of earshot, to the ISA detention camp, “Universiti Kedua”, in Kamunting, Perak.

KK tan under ISA

I met one ISA “graduate” shortly after he was released from Kamunting. Tan KK was Vice President of the Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia. He had the unwelcome privilege of being the first ISA detainee to be arrested.

Tan was an academic from Taiping, (more…)

March 28, 2009

Santa Claus is Good for You

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 6:01 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

By Pak Bui 


Old White Haired Santa Claus appears at the opening of a private hospital in Kuching. He calls for improved health care in Sarawak, particularly in the fields of cancer and kidney care. Applause all around!

The owners of the private hospital, UMNO cadres from Johor, fall over themselves to shake Old White Hair’s hands, almost in tears. The private hospital is declared open – open to all, it seems, or at least all those with a credit card and money to burn. The entire farce is reported on the front page of local papers.
Why focus on cancer and kidneys?

But why focus on cancer and kidney care? (more…)

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