PETALING JAYA: Deputy federal territories minister Edmund Santhara has clarified that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had allowed him to go on leave for 55 working days to be in New Zealand with his family, partly because his wife is ill.
In a statement, Santhara said Muhyiddin approved his request for leave on Dec 18, which was also supported by federal territories minister Annuar Musa. He left for New Zealand on Dec 23, where he was quarantined until Jan 9.
“The reason I left the country was to visit my children in New Zealand, particularly one of my kids who is furthering their studies.
“Besides that, I needed to be with my nine-year-old child to carry out my responsibilities as a father, after not seeing them for nearly a year. I also needed to visit my wife who is suffering from health problems,” he said.
He maintained that he had complied with the immigration department’s procedures in requesting for a MyTravelPass to exit the country, adding that his application was submitted on Oct 30 and approved on Nov 2.
Santhara said his 55 days of leave includes unpaid leave, adding that since becoming deputy minister on March 10, he had not taken any days off from work nor called in sick or taken a break on weekends or public holidays.
“This is to ensure that I can offer the best service to the people in the federal territories and Segamat during the movement control order (MCO) in 2020.”
This follows a claim by Sarawak Report that the Segamat MP had flown to New Zealand on Dec 23 and had yet to return. It also claimed that his family were permanent residents there, while his children studied in Auckland.
Former prime minister Najib Razak asked whether this was true, demanding an explanation over the matter to avoid backlash from the people.
Meanwhile, a Malaysiakini report said Santhara was in New Zealand to attend to family matters and had actually returned to Malaysia a day before Federal Territories Day on Feb 1, but had left soon after that.
Santhara denied claims he left the country during the MCO since he had left before the lockdown came into effect and after parliamentary sittings were over, adding that he had attended every day of the Dewan Rakyat proceedings.
He also denied that he had gone back and forth between New Zealand and Malaysia, saying Batu MP P Prabakaran’s claims that Santhara had returned to attend Federal Territory Day celebrations were not true.
Santhara said he will consider taking legal action against those making false accusations against him when he returns to Malaysia, adding that police reports will also be lodged.