Email Message to Overseas on Penang’s Response To The Rabies Outbreak And Requesting Putrajaya To Officially Invite Overseas NGOs To Give Expert Advice And Supply Needed Rabies Vaccines For Dogs (e/c)

Press Statement by the Chief Minister of Penang Lim Guan Eng on 25 September 2015:

The Penang State Government will try to ask Putrajaya to send the official invite to the international rabies organisations like World Veterinary Services(WVS) and other like-minded organisations who wish to help.

Thanks for your concerns. The rabies outbreak erupted in Perlis and Kedah more than a month ago. Dog culling has been done more extensively in these two states without any public outcry because being BN states and they did not publicise it. So far 2,000 dogs have been culled in Kedah and Perlis compared to less than 500 in Penang. Perhaps that is why no one noticed this until Penang was hit when rabies crossed over to here. We decided to be open and transparent so that the public, especially pet owners, can be alerted to protect their dogs.

Of course Penang has been solely targeted by animal NGO activists who are allowed to demonstrate daily in Penang if they so wish without interference, but dare not do the same in Perlis and Kedah. Again only Penang leaders including myself, have met with animal NGO activists because the BN govt leaders in Kedah and Perlis ignore them. I have never spoken to WVS but my EXCO/State Health Minister has.

Despite our transparency and reaching out, we remain targetted for doing what was done months earlier in Kedah and Perlis to the extent that some threatened not to vote for the overthrow of the Penang Pakatan Harapan state government. Perhaps Penang should fall back to BN for them to realise what they are getting.

I cannot answer for the Department of Veterinary Services in Putrajaya why this and that was not done earlier. The Department of Veterinary Services is under the Federal Government. So if certain international organisations require an official letter of invitation to come here or other protocols, the right agency they should address is from Putrajaya and not from the state government. I cannot issue any official invitation as I do not have the final authority – Putrajaya has. That includes the issue of bringing them into Malaysia and whether the vaccines are acceptable.

I will request Putrajaya to issue the official letter of invitation but that final decision is up to them. I believe that they will do so because we have run out of or are short of vaccines for dogs.

My role is principally in declaring Penang a rabies infected area. Only the Penang Chief Minister can sign that authorisation for the state of Penang. I decided to sign it when I was provided with the recommendations of the experts from the Malaysian Veterinary Department and Health Department of the health crisis we are facing. To protect human lives and pet dogs coupled with insufficient vaccines, I had to accept their recommendation and issue the order.

I can only cancel the order when the rabies outbreak is over or if expert recommendations by the veterinary or health services say so.

Since we took over the Penang state government in 2008, we did not conduct any culling of dogs like what was done under the previous BN administration. BN had outsourced it to 2 private companies for profit. Culling was done then even though there was no rabies outbreak. Between 2003-6, each stray dog killed was paid RM80 and 6,054 stray dogs were culled at a cost of RM484,000 – huge profit to the two BN crony companies those days. We stopped this practice when we took over. Now due to the rabies outbreak, the culling is conducted by government officials, not outsourced to private companies for profit. We do not shoot the stray dogs with bullets unlike in other states but with tranquilizers before putting them to sleep.

I have one dog, a stray that I took it upon myself to quietly adopt after seeing it on the streets in my constituency in Butterworth 6 years ago. It is a painful decision for all of us in the Pakatan Harapan state government to accept the culling recommendation by our experts in the Veterinary Services and Health Department, but a necessary one to contain the rabies outbreak to protect both humans and pet dogs.

Thank you.

Lim Guan Eng

=====Mandarin Version —