It has been widespread gossip in Sarawak for well over a year. Now close family members have confirmed to Sarawak Report that the Chief Minister’s younger son, Rahman Sulaiman, is suffering from the disease AIDS.
Like all right-minded people we sympathise with him and his family. No decent person these days would regard this widespread affliction as a stigma and many people from all walks of life are fighting the condition.
Indeed, the good news is that at last modern science is getting on top of the virus and, given the right treatment, sufferers can lead a normal life without fear of an early death.
Treatment in Britain
However, this is clearly why Rahman Sulaiman has taken the decision to leave Sarawak and base himself in Britain, where we photographed him arriving at one of the Taib residences last year.
Family members have told us that Sulaiman tends to get depressed and “pessimistic” about his condition, but, in fact with this modern treatment he is clearly staying extremely healthy and well.
Our recent expose of his Facebook pages shows just what a lively time he is having travelling around the world’s ski resorts. He has declared himself completely fit and has complained about the criticism of him not being available to do his job as an elected representative of Parliament:
But what about Sarawak’s other sufferers from AIDS?
However, our concern is over the real scandal about AIDS in Sarawak and Malaysia. The fact that thousands of other less well-connected sufferers from the disease are being either completely neglected or given the cheapest and most disgracefully out-dated treatment.
According to our research, this oil-rich country is spending less on the well-being of its AIDS sufferers than some of the poorest African countries in the world.
Unbelievably, under the rules laid down by the Health Ministry, doctors here are still only allowed to prescribe so-called monotherapy (single agent) drugs to the vast majority of patients. This is known the world over to be a highly substandard, ineffective treatment. However, it only costs a nominal RM20-30 per patient per month, which is within the restrictive budget laid out by the government.
By contrast, even in poverty-stricken Malawi and less well off Thailand, their governments are now finding the money to fund the modern triple therapy drugs(also known as Highly Active Antiretroviral drugs or HAART), which are known to be far more effective but cost around RM320 per month or RM3840 per person per year.
Itis clearly beyond the means of indigenous tribes people living in the interiors of Sarawak and probably beyond the means of many ordinary Sarawakians (latest statistics from 2008 show that over 50% of new HIV victims were indeed housewives) to pay for HAART drugs. However this paltry sum is certainly not beyond the means of the government and Sarawak’s chief minister Taib Mahmud.
If official figures on HIV incidence are to be believed (although experts are certain they are much higher), providing free, safe and effective triple therapy to Sarawakians would only cost the state government RM430,080 per year. This is less than it the cost of the hire of just one of the 27 helicopters the CM has commandeered for electioneering over the next two weeks!
In fact the RM1.2 billion profit that the Taib family-owned UBG bank made selling off RHB shares to the Employee Provident Fund in 2007 would pay for the entire treatment programme for the next two and a half thousand years!.
It gets worse. Not only are these drugs ineffective. The deeply shocking information that has been given to us by concerned experts is that the out-dated mono-therapy drugs still being provided by Malaysia to poorer patients are now known to be counter-productive. They encourage virus mutation and cross resistance! The slightly more expensive triple therapy (HAART) drugs on the other hand have been proven to save lives and greatly improved health and life expectancy.
This is a situation that surely beggars belief?
Do BN’s politicians really hold AIDS sufferers in such disdain that they are happy to hasten their demise for the sake of a few ringgit a year? Can it be that these rich YBs, who have done so well out of the state, are really so mean as to deny the chance of proper treatment to their fellow human beings – the constituents they are elected to serve?
It is no wonder then that Rahman Sulaiman Taib has fled to the UK to benefit from the best treatment that money can buy. Yet, it is truly sad, also, that neither he nor his family of multi-millionaires and billionaires have lifted a finger to show they care about any of his fellow-sufferers in Sarawak!
How the logging business has brought AIDS into Sarawak
This sickening state of affairs is made even more gut-wrenching by the probability that it has been the State Government of Sarawak’s own policies of encouraging mass logging in the interior that has caused the explosion of AIDS among native populations, along with so many other sexually transmitted diseases.
According to experts we have spoken to, imported timber cutters, who have been in contact with foreign sex-workers, are the most likely cause of the spread of venereal diseases amongst tribes that previously had low infection rates.
The doctors challenge the official figures produced by the Sarawak Health Department on these diseases, because they say these are merely calculated from national statistics. According to Dr David McCoy, a Public Health Specialist with extensive understanding of the problem:
“Public health problems such as HIV/AIDS can be common in communities and indigenous peoples when they are subjected to forced removals, re-locations and the destruction of their homes and lands. We see this in many parts of the world. In Sarawak there is the additional problem of the logging camps which has led to a high number of sexual assaults and rapes of local women. This is one of the reasons for the high numbers of HIV”.
This makes the adamant refusal of BN’s leaders in Sarawak to allow a proper investigation into the numerous complaints of rape against young tribeswomen and school girls by loggers doubly pernicious.
Such attacks if not properly investigated and medically followed up could lead to the unnecessary deaths of these poor victims from one of the modern world’s most dreadful diseases.
The doctors we spoke said that the Sarawak Health Department should provide evidence of a proper programme to determine the true level of AIDS in the State and to show that crucial early detection of the disease is being achieved.
This is what we mean when we speak of an AIDS scandal in Sarawak. That a leader of the state, who has himself experience and understanding of this vicious disease through his own family, could on the one hand move heaven and earth to get the very best treatment for his son, while callously ignoring others who have the same affliction!