RSN Rayer (DAP-Jelutong) was escorted out of the Dewan Rakyat when he refused to sit down despite being ordered to several times by Deputy Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.
Azalina’s decision came after a commotion erupted in the House when Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing (GPS-Bintulu) (pic) claimed that Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah did not go out to the field and visit hospitals during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic because he was “fearful for his life”.
During the debate on Budget 2021, Tiong asked why Dr Noor Hisham did not go to Sabah when Covid-19 cases were at an all-time high in the state.
“Why didn’t he go down to the ground? For instance, the situation in Kota Kinabalu right now is bad, why didn’t he visit all the hospitals and temporary hospitals?
“Only doctors and nurses were told to go. They are not afraid to die. But is the DG scared to die? Even his deputy did not go down, ” he added.
Tiong also claimed that Dr Noor Hisham is lobbying for a top position in the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“For me, I don’t think he qualifies, ” he said.
A number of MPs stood up to speak on the matter.
Rayer told Tiong to show respect to Dr Noor Hisham as he is a frontliner battling Covid-19.
At this juncture, Azalina asked everyone, including Rayer, to sit down so that she could make a ruling on the issue – either to ask Tiong to retract his remarks or explain his comments.
However, Rayer continued to defy her until she ordered the sergeant-at-arms to escort him out of the Dewan.
Tiong then told the Deputy Speaker that he would not retract his remarks as he was only relating what people on the ground were saying.
“I did not curse him to death. I just asked why he is scared of dying, ” he pointed out.
“No, I will not retract it. This is the voice of the frontliners, the voice of the people. Why didn’t the DG go (out into the field)? What is wrong with that? He sent others but he himself didn’t go out into the field, ” he added.
Azalina then said Tiong had given his explanation and that she accepted his reason for criticising Dr Noor Hisham.
In a statement issued later, Tiong said while he did not intend to maliciously target Dr Noor Hisham, his words reflected the frustrations of the frontliners and the public for the past several months.
“DAP MPs such as RSN Rayer should not take advantage of my words for cheap publicity in the guise of ‘defending civil servants’, ” he added.
He said Sabah was plagued by a serious shortage of medical supplies, including personal protective equipment.
“Why didn’t the Health DG personally go down to the ground to inspect the situation himself and ‘prescribe’ the right measures?
“Many have wondered why he cannot visit the affected areas himself to give a firsthand report on the actual situation to the National Security Council and Prime Minister as soon as possible.
“Instead of holding those daily press conferences, he should focus entirely on pandemic prevention work and leave the daily updates to the Senior Minister (Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob), ” Tiong said.
At a press conference later, Arau MP Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said Tiong’s remarks had been twisted by the Opposition MPs.
He said Tiong only wanted clarification on why Dr Noor Hisham didn’t go to the ground in Sabah.
“Tiong was only relating what the people and frontliners have been saying, ” he added.
Shahidan, who is Perikatan Nasional Backbenchers’ Club chairman (PNBBC), said the Perikatan government was serious in its efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Asked whether Tiong should apologise for his remarks, Shahidan said Pakatan Harapan should apologise to the people first because they were in the federal Government then when Covid-19 first hit the country.
“They should apologise first as they did not do much about it (combating Covid-19) when they were in power, ” he said.