KJ Picks Fight With 2 Ministers After GEG Bill Is Deemed "Unconstitutional"

Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Tiong King Sing lambasted Khairy, calling him "a failure of a health minister".

Cover image via Hazreen Mohamad/New Straits Times & Bernama/New Straits Times

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Former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has accused two Cabinet ministers of blocking a bill aimed at making it illegal for those born after 2007 to buy or consume nicotine products

The Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023, also known as the Generational EndGame (GEG) ban, aims to completely cease smoking in Malaysia for future generations.

According to Codeblue, on Wednesday, 15 November, Khairy expressed disappointment on his Instagram Stories that the Cabinet decided to drop provisions related to the tobacco and vape ban based on age from the bill.

Earlier this month, Attorney-General Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh had called the GEG ban unconstitutional, as the age prohibition violates Article 8 of the Federal Constitution that guarantees equality before the law.

As such, the tabling of the bill will likely be deferred to next year.

Khairy, who drafted the original bill last year while he was in government, called the current Cabinet's handling of the matter "absolutely shambolic"

As reported by Malaysiakini, he accused Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said and Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, as well as "the gaffer" — likely in reference to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim — of being "big opponents" to the bill.

Khairy also claimed that some ministers are more concerned about the revenue earned from duties on cigarettes.

However, he reasoned that the government should focus more on public health as it spends billions more yearly to treat diseases related to smoking, compared to the taxes collected from the industry.

In response, Tiong asked Khairy to stop accusing current ministers of deliberately delaying the proposed bill

In a two-and-a-half minute Facebook video on Thursday morning, 16 November, the Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister lambasted Khairy, calling him "a failure of a health minister" for not first proving that cancer cases in Malaysia are a direct consequence of smoking.

Tiong also called the GEG ban "unconstitutional and unenforceable", and instead suggested educating Malaysians about the dangers of smoking from a young age.

"Especially in the 21st century and in a civilised society, this high-pressure implementation and coercive action is akin to parents who cane or punish their child without prior checks or examination," Tiong said.

"If this unprepared matter is hastily implemented and eventually results in various weaknesses and criticisms, leading to massive public complaints, who should be blamed?" he asked.

Tiong questioned Khairy's contributions to the country as health minister.

Image via Dato' Seri Tiong King Sing (Facebook)

Azalina has also responded to Khairy, saying that said the Cabinet is collectively responsible for the decision made on the controversial bill

"All ministers have the prerogative as members of the Cabinet to present their views on any matter, including the paper on this Bill, but ultimately the Cabinet is collectively responsible for the decision made," she told Malaysiakini when contacted.

"By the way, who is 'the gaffer', if I may ask?" she added.

Azalina said the Attorney-General is the legal adviser to the Cabinet, according to Article 145(2) of the Federal Constitution.

"Hence, as the legal adviser to the Cabinet, the Attorney-General's Chambers has presented its legal views on the GEG during the Cabinet meeting," she added.

However, the pushback from Khairy continues

"It's 2023, and there's still a minister who questions the link between smoking and cancer," he wrote in an Instagram Story later on Thursday.

He shared a screenshot of an article by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which stated that smoking could "cause cancer almost anywhere in the body".

He also shared a tweet by World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who happened to warn the public against smoking on the same day.

Khairy announced the GEG bill last year in a bid to control non-communicable diseases in Malaysia:

Governments around the world have been taking various measures to reduce smoking prevalence:

Read more stories about the #smokingban on SAYS:

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