Khairy slams Health Minister Dr Zaliha for not challenging colleague Tiong’s dismissal of smoking’s cancer risk
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — Former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has slammed his successor and current Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa for being silent over a fellow Cabinet member’s ignorance of well-documented medical facts that smoking causes cancer.
Khairy expressed his dismay over the lack of correction from Dr Zaliha who has neither intervened nor corrected her colleague’s statement, characterising the lack of response as “extremely disheartening” and “appalling.”
“It’s absolutely embarrassing and shameful that there is a minister in 2023 in Malaysia that questions the link between cigarette smoking and cancer,” Khairy was reported saying by New Straits Times after a charity walk event in Johor Baru.
Khairy warned that misleading statements would lead youths to underestimate the dangers of smoking, therefore causing “a perfect storm” for them to pick up smoking.
“The reason I’m so angry is because this is not just an assault on science and medical facts, but this is an attack on public health and the health minister is just completely helpless.
“If a minister questions medical science and the custodian of public health remains silent, what message does it send to the public?” he reportedly said.
Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing had previously called on Khairy to prove that cancer cases in Malaysia are a direct consequence of smoking.
Tiong, who is also the Bintulu MP, also labelled Khairy as the worst health minister, asserting that Khairy failed to substantiate the connection between smoking and cancer.
Separately, Khairy also said he was perplexed over the sudden change in stance by the Attorney General’s Chambers regarding a generational end-game (GEG) Bill he had previously brought forward during his tenure as health minister.
He further speculated that the decision might be driven more by political motives than legal concerns.
“I can only assume that it’s not a point of law, but rather political,” he said.
He added that during his tenure as the health minister, the legal aspect of the Bill was brought before the AGC and was not disputed.
In response, the AGC said it has been consistent in its legal opinion since 2022 that the provisions about the “generational end game” or GEG provided in the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill can be challenged in court.