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Farewell Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham

By Murray Hunter - posted Friday, 28 April 2023

On April 21, Dr Noor Hisham will retire as director-general of the ministry of health (MOH), after 35 years’ service.

Dr Noor Hisham became a hero of many Malaysians during their Covid-19 pandemic, becoming a public figure known to almost all, due to his TV briefings. Dr Noor Hisham was named one of the world’s top doctors fighting Covid-19, alongside Dr Anthony Fauci of the United States and Dr Ashley Bloomfield of New Zealand, by China Global TV Network (CGTN).

Chinese trolls and bots would attack anyone who criticized Noor Hisham in the media. When the MP for Bintulu in Sarawak Tiong King Sing in parliament criticised Noor Hisham for not being on the frontlinesduring the pandemic to give moral support for the doctors and nurses working tirelessly, he was escorted forcibly from the chamber.


Noor Hisham has received many accolades. However, there are dark sides to the legacy he leaves behind.

1.      Political bias as a public servant

First and foremost, Noor Hisham is a ‘political animal’. During the 2018 general election campaign, Noor Hisham made a number of tweets, which could be construed to be politically biased, supporting Najib Razak. The MOH main page of its official website promoted the Barisan Nasional. Farida Ariffin, a spokesperson for the G25, made a statement that Noor Hisham was abusing his position as the director-general of the MOH. Bersih 2.0 also criticised Noor Hisham, stating he was breaking public service regulations, and named in Bersih’s “Hall of Shame”, along side jailed former prime minister Najib Razak.

2.      Strikes are just a symptom of a ‘toxic’ public health care sector

The current doctors’ strikes are only a symptom of what many within the public healthcare system describe as ‘toxic’. The public healthcare system is plagued with staff shortages, with overworked and underpaid healthcare professionals and support staff throughout the nation. There are also chronic bed shortages, a lack of specialists in many areas, insufficient equipment, and poor emergency response times.

Staff also complain of bullying, sexual abuse, and even sexual assault, sometimes leading to suicides. A Code Blue pollundertaken nationwide of 1652 government healthcare professionals and support workers, showed that 95 percent believe the public health system is in crisis. More than 72 percent are looking for jobs outside of the public system.


Noor Hisham was never an advocate of fixing this crisis. He had a condescending attitudetowards those who planned on striking, being reactive, rather than proactive.

3.      Incompetent Covid-19 management

Noor Hisham was given unprecedented control over managing the pandemic. This included the Movement Control Orders (MCO), or lockdowns. Noor Hisham introduced draconian lockdowns which drove the economy into the ground. People relied on charity to feed themselves. The suicide rate increased, family abuse increased, and now the incidence of other diseases are on the rise, due to people not being able to go to hospitals during the MCOs.

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An abridged version of this article was published in the Asia Sentinel 18th April 2023.

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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis. He blogs at Murray Hunter.

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