Accused of fraternising, Health Ministry says officials met businessmen for weight loss programme not tobacco industry reps

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 — Health Ministry has denied today that its senior officials had met representatives from the tobacco industry, clarifying instead that the meeting was on a weight reduction intervention programme.

The ministry’s deputy general Datuk Dr Norhayati Rusli said unlike the initial claims that the two representatives were from tobacco companies, the duo introduced themselves as the owners of Putrajaya bicycles company and a printing company, respectively.

“The Ministry of Health has conducted an investigation related to the allegations that have been made. The initial results of the investigation found that two MoH officials were visited by two individuals who introduced themselves as the owners of a Putrajaya bicycle company and a printing company.

“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a proposal to hold a weight reduction intervention program, but no agreement was made during the discussion,” she said in a statement here.

She said that the ministry noted that such deals would have been against the treaty that was signed between the government and World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Dr Norhayati said that the ministry had no plans to breach Article 5.3 of the treaty which has specifically stated measures to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

“MoH will not compromise with any officer who violates the guidelines of Article 5.3 and related policies. At the same time, as a public servant, especially MoH staff, the responsibility is to ensure that any meeting with any private company or non-governmental organisation must be free of any conflict that may lead to self-interest,” she added.

Yesterday, it was reported that the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) expressed its concern today over a meeting between two senior officials from the Ministry of Health and representatives from the tobacco industry.

In a statement, the anti-smoking council said it is worried that the meeting would hinder the government’s effort to reduce tobacco consumption within the country.

It pointed to a social media post with pictures of the meetings captioned as “meeting for future collaboration”.

It also alleged that after this was highlighted, the photos were deleted in an attempt to hide the meetings.

MCTC members include the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), National Cancer Council (Makna), National Cancer Society and Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca).