by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, on Saturday, 14th July 1979:
Repeated call on Health Minister, Tan Sri Chong Hong Nyan, to lift the 24-hour clamp down on free movement of patients and visitors at Sungei Buloh Leprosarium and to issue a directive to Health Ministry officials to stop defaming Leprosarium picturing it as a ‘den of crime and sin’
I am very shocked by the reported comments of the Director-General of the Health Ministry, Tan Sri Dr. Raja Ahmad Noordin, in the Star on Thursday that the clamp-down on free movement of patients and visitors in Sungei Buloh Leprosarium was to rid it of drug addiction and prostitution.
Since that report, Leprosarium settlers have been most angry and hurt because it presented the settlement as a ‘den of crime and sin’, casting a slur on the inmates, which is completely without basis and therefore grossly unfair.
When I met the Selangor Chief Police Officer, Datuk P. Alagendra at the Selangor Police Headquarters in Klang on Wednesday to find out whether the Police was behind the clamp-down, which was the impression I gathered when I visited the settlement last Saturday and very firm and categorical that the Police had nothing to do with the clamp-down. Datuk Alagendra said the clampdown was done ‘without consultation nor on our advice’.
I pointedly asked Datuk Alagendra whether the leprosarium had a reputation for drugs, especially in suspected processing and production, and also in prostitution. Datuk Alagendra said no.
I am all the more mystified by Tan Sri Dr. Raja Ahmad Noordin’s Thursday statement in the Star about the need for the clamp-down to rid the leprosarium of drugs and prostitution.
In my meeting with Datuk Alagendra, he and the Rawang OCPD, under which the Leprosarium comes under, told me that the Police were able to carry out their normal police duties in crime prevention and combat regardless of whether there is clamp-down or no clamp-down at the Leprosarium, like the discovery of the illicit samsu still recently.
It is clear therefore that the Health Ministry authorities have no valid police reason for such a clamp-down. I have seen trying to contact the Health Minister, Tan Sri Chong Hong Nyan, for the last two days to straighten out this matter and to ask him to lift the ‘curfew’ in Sungei Buloh Leprosarium, but he seems to be suddenly so frightfully busy that I have not been able to reach him at all.
I call on the Health Minister to immediately lift the clamp-down on free movement of patients and visitors, which in the early phases, tantamount to collective punishment of the 1,600 inmates for the transgressions of a few – but now with the police clarification, has become a senseless collective punishment of all for no reason whatsoever.
The free movement of patients and visitors is an important therapeutic part of the treatment of leprosy inmates, to fully integrate them with society and to make them feel and lead normal, meaningful lives. The month-long clamp down on free movement in the Leprosarium has not only caused hardships and sufferings to the patients and relatives, but a direct reversal and setback of the Open Door Policy initiated in 1969 by the authorities to end the social stigma of lepers as ‘outcasts’ of society. The continued clamping down will make the lepers and the people in general feel that the lepers are indeed ‘pariahs’ of society, defeating the very object of leprosy treatment and rehabilitation. The Health Minister should also direct Health Ministry officials to stop defaming the settlement by picturing the settlement as a ‘den of crime and sin’, which is completely without basis and grossly unfair.