January 14th, 2000

 
FLU virus hits Malaysia


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 – While millions of people are being struck down by influenza throughout Europe and the United States, medical experts in Malaysia are fearing yet another outbreak of the dreaded FLU (Freedom and Liberty Unacceptable) epidemic in the country. The FLU virus has already claimed five victims, all of whom have already been arrested and charged by police this week. Most have already been brought to court for examination and may be warded for long-term treatment at the Sungai Buloh or Kajang prisons.

Among the five are National Justice Party Vice-President Marina Yusof and Democratic Action Party leader Karpal Singh, who are said to have orally contracted the ‘Seditionus Actus’ virus while making anti-government speeches. Editor Zulkifli Sulong and printer Chea Lim Thye are said to have contracted the same virus from copies of their Opposition newspaper Harakah. National Justice Party Youth head Mohamad Ezam Noor is said to have been struck by the ‘Officiallus Secretus Actus’ (OSA) virus when he distributed official documents implicating corruption among senior government ministers.

Health Ministry official Dr Chua Ni Pah cautioned Malaysians to avoid being infected by the epidemic and to stay away from people showing symptoms of the disease. “Sufferers will tend to display various symptoms, depending upon the severity of the disease. Some symptoms may be relatively mild, such as complaining about government leaders or reading anti-government newspapers and websites. Others may display more acute symptoms, such as accusing the government of corruption, nepotism and cronyism. The more chronic cases may even do the unthinkable and criticise our beloved Prime Minister”

He warned that among the people most at risk of being infected were those with a deep sense of justice, a love of freedom and a good understanding of democratic principles. “Just put those silly thoughts out of your head and you should be free from infection,” Dr Chua advised. “Better still, join UMNO.”

Dr Chua urged people to immunise themselves with regular daily doses of government propaganda in the mainstream newspapers and television.

He warned that treatment after infection could be very long and uncomfortable. “Patients may have to be warded in prisons or detention camps for many years until they are fully cured. In extreme cases, we may have to prescribe regular doses of arsenic.’

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi urged the public not to panic over the FLU outbreak. "It is a normal matter," he assured.

In another development, Foreign Affairs Ministry officials warned Western countries not to interfere in Malaysia’s handling of the FLU epidemic, accusing the US, Australia, Canada and Britain of attempting to smuggle in vaccines to fight the FLU. Their respective embassies denied the allegations, stating that their involvement was limited to ‘gathering information’ about the dreaded virus.

The most widespread FLU epidemic struck Malaysia in 1987, when the ‘Internalus Security Actus’ (ISA) virus claimed over a hundred victims, causing many of them to mysteriously disappear from public view for years. The virus also resulted in the temporary closure of many newspapers, causing many of them to be visibly weak and sickly up to today.

Dozens more were struck with the ISA virus in September 1998 with the sacking and arrest of former Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar himself suffered from terrible wounds to his eye as a result of the disease. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had earlier claimed that Anwar had inflicted the virus upon himself but the doctor examining Anwar, Dr Rahim Noor, is now being investigated for malpractice in the case. Rahim claims the virus gave him a sore throat which caused him to “Ehhhemm” repeatedly during his examination of Anwar.

A variation of the FLU virus – the FRU virus – also attacked tens of thousands of Malaysians that year, causing them to gather in the streets and shout anti-government slogans. Federal Reserve Unit riot police treated the victims with heavy doses of tear gas, chemical sprays, water cannons and baton charges, followed up by vigorous physio-therapy using their fists and boots.

Anwar, who is currently being warded at the Sungai Buloh prison, is expected to be brought to the High Court later this month for further examination. The prognosis is not good.

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