Padungan rep chides Batu Kitang rep over stray dogs issue, Kemena comes to rescue

From left: Chong, Dr Rundi and Lo debating on the Veterinary Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in DUN today (Nov 23, 2022). Screenshot taken from Ukas Facebook livestream

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Nov 23: Padungan Chong Chieng Jen (PH-DAP) took a swipe at Batu Kitang assemblyman Lo Khere Chiang by pointing out that it was wrong for the latter to blame irresponsible dog owners for the spread of rabies when it was the government control measures that failed.

The discourse took place after Chong presented his debate on the Veterinary Public Health (Amendment) Bill 2022 during the ongoing Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) held at New DUN Complex today.

Chong started to first talk about the “African Swine Flu” (sic) issue before moving on to rabies issues.

Chong, who was supportive of the Bill which will allow the Veterinary Department to engage manpower from other departments, expressed his only concern that the manpower from other departments may not be well-equipped or professional enough to handle rabies cases, before taking a swipe at Lo.

“And just a short comment on what was mentioned by Honourable Member for Batu Kitang (who is also Padawan Municipal Council chairman) who tried to attribute the spread of the rabies to dog owners whom he classified as irresponsible in moving their dogs from affected areas to those unaffected areas.

“I beg to differ on his comment, don’t try to push the failure of the government in control the spread of the rabies on the public. I believe most dog owners are responsible owners and that, one of the (factors accounting for the) spread of rabies is the strays, which belong to no owners. 

“And that in particular, I find (of) the three municipal areas, such as Padawan (Municipal) Council), MBKS (Kuching South City Council) and DBKU (Kuching North City Council), we can notice that most strays are found in Padawan council area under the Honourable Member for Batu Kitang.  

“And so, up to now, the control of strays is under local authorities which is under the jurisdiction of the Honourable Member of Batu Kitang, so don’t try to push, don’t try to fault the public for the failure of the authorities in the spread of rabies,” said Chong.

Lo who was also debating on the same Bill just before Chong had said that “one of the main cause of the spread of rabies is a result from irresponsible dog owners moving dogs out from rabies-infected area without movement permit from the State Veterinary Authority”.

He said on Dec 22, 2019, Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) declared the establishment of Immune Belt Enforcement Team (IBET) as a new initiative to curb rabies spread.

“A total ban on the movement of dogs both in and out of Sarawak along its border with Kalimantan was imposed to curb the spread of the virus.

He said IBET have been duly appointed and authorized in writing by the State Veterinary Authority for the purpose of execution of various tasks including enforcing and conducting dispensing of veterinary drugs, conducting vaccination, surveillance and monitoring of dogs as well as “at any time and circumstances to conduct and perform their task and responsibilities on rabies and other infectious disease control”. 

Meanwhile, Modernisation of Agriculture and Regional Development Minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi (GPS-PBB) who introduced the Bill defended Lo when winding up the debate.  

“Before I respond further, I would like to make some corrections. (It is) African Swine Fever. It is not African Swine Flu (as Chong had called it). There is no flu in African Swine Fever.

“Second, there is no such thing as pushing the responsibility, or the blame to the public.  All we need is cooperation from the public in order for the authorities to be more effective (in tackling rabies issue), that is all. (There is) No pushing (of responsibilities) here. Two corrections,” said Dr Rundi.  

In response to Chong’s concern, Dr Rundi said when assistance from other departments is concerned, it is IBET which the Veterinary Department will seek help from. — DayakDaily