An interview with Kam Agong’s son-in-law, Lawrence, about the lack of medical professionals and facilities for expectant mothers in rural Sarawak

Please also read “Help Prevent Another Kam Agong Tragedy“.

For the extended version please see this.

Below is the interview with Kam Agong’s son-in-law Lawrence Jayaraj.

  1. What do you know of the doctors who performed the C-section on Kam Agong?

The 2 doctors who performed the Emergency Lower Segment Ceasarean  Section were not Gynaecologists. Lawas District Hospital has been without a “Gynae” or specialist for the last 55 years. This is common in Sarawak where hospitals are inadequately equipped and are without any specialists. 

  1. Why did the hospital staff discharge Kam Agong despite the infection? 

Kam Agong almost died during C-Section when she lost a lot of blood. She was never referred to a Gynae despite complications. Five days after the Caesarean Section Hospital they discharged her.

When she was admitted for 2nd time for Secondary Postpartum Haemorrhage (SPPH) Kam Agong was not treated properly, she was not referred to the Miri General Hospital or a Gynaecologist.

She had severe infection; there were 2 insertions on her abdomen (upper segment and lower segment). Despite that, she was discharged.

Reason for discharge they wanted her to die in Ulu (Long Semadoh) and the case will go without notice. To cover up their experiment on Kam Agong which led to her death.

None of the defended appeared in court during the trial.      

3. After her death, why did a doctor remove all her medical notes from the clinic at Long Semadoh? 

The doctor who performed the C-Section came up that very night with a hospital employee, to Kam Agong’s house and wanted to preform an autopsy but the head of the village refused.

The hospital staff intimidated Kam Agong’s-14-year old daughter (Kathy Padan) who was traumatised, to handover the maternal card and medications belonging to Kam Agong.

After almost a year, we got the maternal card from the Lawas District Hospital which appeared to have been altered. There was also an attempt to steal that document from us on the same day. 

4. Why were the political leaders, from kampung to state level, reluctant to help you?

The Penghulu and Ketua Kampung they don’t know how to help. Their reason is “takdir” and no one came forth to help.  

5. Why were the lawyers reluctant to help you?

The lawyer wanted to settle the case quickly and make their 30% from the settlement amount. They don’t think they can win  case against the government. 

No reasons were given. They are incompetent. They don’t care.

6. Agnes may contest in the 2021 state election and become a politician to help improve things. Is this the best course of action?

Agnes will contest against Awang Tengah. She will not win, but it is definite that the issues concerning maternal care and health care in Lawas, will receive attention. 

We have been trying for the last 17 years to get a specialist for Lawas District Hospital and the construction of the Hospital which was promised in 7th Malaysian Plan.

We are trying to meet DS Wan Azizah DPM and MOH this February. We will organise a protest assembly at the Parliament on 19th March to commemorate Kam Agong’s 17th anniversary. 

7. What was the reaction of the audience, when your documentary was aired at the Kuching Freedom Film Fest, on October 27, 2018?

Some cried and some shared what happened to their loved ones. 

8. Have the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Family and Community, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the Women’s Ministry Deputy, Hannah Yeoh, the Health Minister, Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad, Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud, The Sarawak Chief Minister, Abang Johari Openg and the local MP for Lawas and Long Semadoh, Henry Sum Agong, seen your documentary?

They all know about this issue and about this documentary but there has been no response. Baru Bian visited the site of the proposed new Lawas District Hospital, but I think it’s just a show. They are calling for yet, another tender. 

Sadly, the Ministry of Health, Dr Dzulkifli has  yet to issue a statement. The FB admin blocked me from tagging him.

8. You took the medical staff and government of Malaysia to court in 2004 and years later, won your case. When did you decide to make the documentary? Describe what transpired, from the time you decided to seek justice, and take the medical staff and the government, to court, to your “victory”.

We decided to make this documentary March 2018. We had great encouragement from Brenda and Anna from Freedom Film Festival. 

When Kam Agong died in 2002, I had to think of the futures of the three (3) school going children and the 28-days-old infant.

I brought everyone to Kuala Lumpur, educated them and helped to secure jobs for the older siblings and my father-in-law.

There were times when we had very little to eat and our house electricity was disconnected. We had no electricity for almost a month.

I had to work hard and travel to Miri and Lawas to attend every mention and trial.

The Federal Counsel did not make it easy for us. She wanted was to settle the case without a trial. 

We paid all the expenses. I can’t recall how much and I am not a lawyer. Lawyers from Malaya cannot practice in Sarawak they need to get themselves admitted in Sarawak Bar and Malayan Lawyer don’t want to do that. 

9.Readers would be horrified to learn that there were attempts to settle Kam Agong’s case out of court. The lawyer offered RM10,000, but you refused, so he raised the settlement to RM50,000 and then to RM100,000. You and your family only wanted to find out the truth and to seek justice.They would also be furious to know that the sum which the judge stated, when you won your case, was a paltry RM60,000, for medical negligence.This was a serious dereliction of duty of the medical staff, and a major failure of the authorities, to look after the medical needs of the rural people. They will also wonder why heads did NOT  roll and that some doctors were NOT struck off.

Have you any comments about this?

The main doctor was given a desk job in the Sarawak Health department, and I was told, that the rest are still practicing. 

Corrupted politicians head must be brought to justice. As for the quantum of damages, the Federal Counsel (FC) offered, in the chambers, RM300K. We refused.

Sessions count judge told me to accept because he will only be able to award RM50,000 plus RM10,000 for cost.

We informed the judge that we would accept whatever amount that is awarded.

The FC appealed against the sessions courts judgement, but the high court judge threw out FC appeal.  

We appealed for a higher quantum in damages and loss of income.

We think that this appeal may have created a precedent.

The High Court judge awarded RM500 “loss of maternal care” until Kam Agong’s 8th child, reaches his 18th birthday.

10. Has medical care for the rural of Sarawak, always been this terrible?

There are no proper statistics with regards to Maternal Mortality Rate in Sarawak.  A  new hospital was proposed for Lawas, in the Seventh Malaysia Plan but by the time the 11th Malaysian Plan came along, there was still no hospital.

Kam Agong died when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was still a PM. He was demonising the opposition and busy fighting the reformasi movement. 

During Abdullah Badawai’s tenure as PM, Pak Lah was busy with “corridors”.

Najib was busy arresting ZUNAR and no attention was given to maternity care and healthcare in Sarawak.

The Sarawak State Government politicians are all in it for themselves. Sarawak local MP’s they have no idea what to say. Their are more interested in the Pan Borneo highway construction. 

11. One of your goals is to compel the Federal Government to provide adequate maternity care and healthcare in Sarawak.What progress have you made since highlighting the many issues, in this documentary?

We are getting some attention from Sarawakians and this issue will be a determining factor or could be detrimental factor for politicians and political parties during the Sarawak Elections in 2021.

12. How often does your local MP visit the area? 

After the screening of this documentary in Petaling Jaya, YB Baru Bian and YB Micheal Teo visited the Lawas District Hospital. 

Dato Henry Sum Agong and Awang Tengah have not said anything.

All we want is for the Lawas District Hospital to be equipped to handle emergencies and to have a specialist. The government should expedite the construction of new Lawas District Hospital.  

In memory of Kam Agong (third from right, seated)

(NB: Original interview, with very minor edits.)

Please check the original link here.

Rebuilding Malaysia

1 Comment

  • Hang Kasturi says:

    For a start, the death should have been referred to a Coroner for investigation as to the cause of death and if due to the negligence of the doctors and hospital, then the responsible people and organization should be brought to account. How can the session magistrate or judge advised the litigants his judgment which force the litigants to settle without following the rule of law. Clearly, in our beloved Malaysia, the rule of law is broken and hence the need for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the failure of the judiciary to adhere to a best practice standard, without fear of favour and in accordance with the law. What a joke and an unmitigated disaster!!! Rest in peace Kam Agong.

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