JOHOR BARU: Former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has slammed his successor Dr Zaliha Mustafa over her silence following remarks made by Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing who questioned the link between smoking and cancer.
He said that it was disheartening that Dr Zaliha has not come out to correct the Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister for the "embarrassing" remarks.
"I think it is absolutely embarrassing and shameful that there is a Minister in 2023 in Malaysia that questions the link between cigarette smoking and cancer," said Khairy.
He added that he finds it extremely disheartening and quite appalling that the Health Ministerhas not come out to correct her colleague as she is tasked with looking after public health in this country.
"It is one thing when Tiong is shooting off his mouth and attacking me. But it is quite another thing when he challenges well established medical facts and science," he said.
Khairy said this to reporters when met after flagging off the Johor Women’s League (Jewel) Butterfly Walk in conjunction with the World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence here on Saturday (Nov 18).
He added that Tiong's statement was an assault on science and medical facts and an attack on public health.
"If he (Tiong) questions medical science and facts and the person who is the custodian of public health just keeps quiet, then what kind of message are you sending to the public," said Khairy.
"Young people will start thinking that there is now a Minister who is saying that there is no real link between smoking and cancer, and that Dr Zaliha did not come out to correct him," he added.
Khairy said that there is now a "perfect storm" in Malaysia for young people to pick up smoking as vapes can be legally sold to minors.
"The reason I am so angry is because this is not just an assault on science and medical facts, but this is an attack on public health," he said.
In several Instagram posts on Thursday (Nov 16), Khairy questioned Tiong’s competence and claimed that the Cabinet member reflected poorly on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
This came after Tiong, in a Facebook post earlier on Thursday, accused Khairy of being the worst health minister ever and urged people to stop blaming current ministers for the failure to pass the Generational Endgame (GEG) bill, which was Khairy’s brainchild.
Tiong claimed that Khairy had failed to provide definitive proof that smoking was linked to cancer during the latter’s time in office, which made the Bill both 'unconstitutional' and 'unenforceable'.