KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 — Rania Zara Medina is not the first transgender appointed to the Health Ministry’s Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) committee, Malaysia Public Health Experts Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar explained today.
He said representatives of affected communities have been named to the committee at various points since the Health Ministry first formed the CCM in 2009 with the Cabinet’s mandate, which also made the country a recipient of the Global Fund allocations disbursed to the Malaysia AIDS Council.
Dr Zainal also stressed that such representation was meant to give the stakeholder communities a direct say in health matters concerning them and not an endorsement of their activities.
“The appointment of seven individuals from the categories such as men who have sex with men, transgenders, female sex workers, drug users, and people living with HIV, does not mean the government or the ministry recognises their culture or lifestyle,” Dr Zainal said in a statement.
He said the association upholds the universal principle of complete non-discrimination in the planning and implementation of universal public health programmes on a national or local level.
Dr Zainal added that the underlying objective must be to make such health efforts inclusive and accessible to those in need.
“CCM representatives often rotate every term based on set procedures, and they include representatives from agencies such as the Health Ministry, the Islamic Development Department, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, Home Ministry, the National Antidrugs Agency, interfaith organisations, among others.
“Among the functions of the CCM is to approve proposals to apply for Global Funds and to monitor the implementation of HIV/AIDS prevention programmes. As the biggest association in the country representing the public health profession, we felt it necessary to state our view on this issue, which has become controversial due to confusion of facts or intentionally distorted information,” Dr Zainal said.
He stressed that PPPKAM’s view of the appointment was strictly from a healthcare level, adding that prolonged controversy over the appointment would be detrimental to efforts to contain and treat HIV/AIDS in the country.
“We call upon all groups and individuals who are concerned about the prosperity and wellbeing of the ummah and the rakyat to synchronise their thoughts and energy towards more significant contributions with positive impact,” Dr Zainal said.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye disclosed Rania’s appointment on Tuesday, triggering fierce criticism from Wanita Umno chief Datuk Noraini Ahmad and her PAS counterpart Nuridah Mohd Salleh, among others.
Both lambasted the appointment as an affront to Malaysian cultural mores and to Islamic sensitivities, with Noraini demanding an explanation and Nuridah urging the ministry to withdraw the appointment.