COMMENT BY YB PROF DR P.RAMASAMY, DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER II, PENANG
Really, who is playing politics, Khairy or the Penang government?
I agree with the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin that procuring vaccines to combat the Covid-19 pandemic is not like “buying T-shirts on Shopee”.
Since the vaccines are highly regulated products, there are definite procedures to be followed.
Yesterday in a press conference, Khairy declared that the individual Yong Chee Kong and his company based in Hong Kong, Xintai Development Enterprise, that made the proposal to donate two million Sinovac vaccine to Penang were non-existent.
In fact the proposal itself was a bogus one.
On checking with the relevant agencies particularly the supplier of Sinovac vaccine it was found that company Xintai Development Enterprise does not exist in the first place.
In fact, according to Khairy, it was the same company had made similar proposal to the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme earlier. He said that the Chief Minister of Penang Chow Kon Yeow and the MP for Bagan Lim Guan Eng should not engage in politics to accuse the federal government for not approving the application for the supply of two million worth of Sinovac vaccine from China.
For Khairy, it was simple: if a proposal to procure and supply vaccines came from a non-existent or a bogus company, how would his agency involved in the immunisation programme give approval in the first place.
As Chow said in his reply to Khairy, it is not for the Penang state government to verify in detail about the company and the connected individual. Chow asked the company officials to refute the comments of Khairy if indeed their company was a bona fide one.
If Penang had the information about the company that it was a bogus one, the question of seeking approval from the federal government would not have risen in the first place. Given the rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic across the country, the Penang government had a cause of concern in terms of the procurement and distribution of vaccines.
The federal government has the sole monopoly of the procurement and distribution of vaccines, but the Penang state government cannot sit by idly and not do anything.
When it came to the light that Selangor and Sarawak were given the permission to procure vaccines, the Penang state was anxious as to why it was left out.
It was in this context that the proposal from the Xintai Development Enterprise that was sent to the Penang state government in February 2021 came to attention. Subsequently, permission was sought from the relevant federal agency for permission to enable the company to procure the Sinovac vaccine from China.
But the federal government sat on the letter for more than two months without any reply.
Maybe Khairy can explain this matter. Only recently, it was made known to the Penang state government that permission would not be granted, although no reasons were given for the rejection.
The issue was: why permission granted to Selangor and Sarawak but not to Penang.
This was the contention of the two DAP leaders, Chow and Lim.
I doubt they meant to engage in politics given the widest concern on the spread of the pandemic in the state. If only the federal government had stated in the rejection letter about the dubious nature of the company that sought to procure the Sinovac vaccine.
Why Khairy had to wait for more than two months to announce that the both the individual and the company were not genuine.
Was he waiting to score some political points against the Penang government?
Is this the mark and calibre of a federal minister empowered to procure and distribute vaccines?
Whether the company is going to refute Khairy remains to be seen, it is federal government that is playing politics all the time with state governments like Penang.
The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has proven that federal government has failed to take appropriate measures in its containment.
In this context, attempts by states like Penang to play a more responsible role is seen as threat by the federal government.
If the federal government finds it difficult to manage the pandemic situation, why not rope in the states?