"How does it help us to announce these deaths?" Heath Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said Thursday, after confirming that the girl from southern Jakarta tested positive on May 13 and died one day later. "We want to focus now on positive steps and achievements made by the government in fighting bird flu." (Irrawaddy)
I recently read an autobiography of Siti Fadilah Supari -- a medical doctor by profession. She has fought to ensure that Western pharmaceutical firms make available to Indonesians -- at an affordable cost -- drugs designed from viral samples originating in Indonesia poultry. Heath Minister Siti Fadilah Supari watched in horror as Western nations hoarded Tamiflu while Indonesians stood defenseless at the frontline of the SARS crisis, and she has since become a fierce advocate of safeguarding the rights of developing countries to have priority access to affordable drugs. It is the opinion of this outspoken physician turned statesman that the WHO upholds a health agenda dictated by Western nations -- one that shows little regard for the best interests of the citizens of developing countries. Perhaps this latest announcement was intended as a means of strengthening the bargaining clout of Indonesia concerning some issue before the WHO.
Sadly, Siti Fadilah Supari has seriously undermined her own credibility in the past. Most notably, in a speech to an international health conference she went out of her way to emphasize the fact that leading US bird flu researchers happen to be based at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Supari proclaimed before the international meeting of scientists and diplomats that these American researchers must be up to no good because Los Alamos is where nuclear weapons were invented. Needless to say, this statement only had the effect of making Supari sound ridiculous.
Once again, this time by asserting that 'national image' ought to come before the dissemination of public health data, this outspoken Indonesian Health Minister has undermined her own credibility in the eyes of the international community -- not to mention the image of Indonesia!
Here is the latest update from Los Alamos concerning a potential breakthrough in combatting any future bird flu pandemic. It is no secret that Los Alamos conducts nuclear weapons research; but its mandate also includes 'solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health and global security concerns.'