Deputy Federal Territories Minister Edmund Santhara has been on leave for 55 working days to be in New Zealand with his family, in part because his wife has not been well.
In a statement posted on his Facebook today, the Segamat MP clarified that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had approved his request for leave on Dec 18, and this was also supported by his minister Annuar Musa.
“The reason I left the country was to visit my children in New Zealand, particularly one of my kids who is furthering studies.
“I needed to be with my nine-year-old child to carry out my responsibilities as a father, after not seeing (the child) for nearly a year. I also needed to visit my wife who is suffering from health problems,” he said.
Santhara (above) left for New Zealand on Dec 23 and was quarantined there until Jan 9.
Yesterday, his former PKR colleague, Batu MP P Prabakaran, questioned his whereabouts and called for Santhara to immediately provide clarification.
He demanded that Santhara quit as Segamat MP if he is in New Zealand as alleged by Sarawak Report.
Prabakaran said Santhara was nowhere to be seen when the floods hit Segamat last month, nor was he seen resolving an issue in connection with a fire incident in Kuala Lumpur.
Santhara said he had complied with the Immigration Department’s requirements in submitting an application on Oct 30 for a MyTravelPass to exit the country, which he said was approved on Nov 2.
He said his 55 days of leave included unpaid leave, adding that since becoming deputy minister on March 10, he had not taken any days off from work, called in sick nor 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.
"I have also attended every day of the Dewan Rakyat sitting with a 100 percent attendance record," Santhara added.
He denied leaving the country during the MCO since he had left before the lockdown came into effect in January.
"I also did not go out and enter Malaysia during the holidays as shown in the social media account of (former premier) Najib Abdul Razak," Santhara added.
He also expressed unhappiness with certain unnamed sections of the media whom he called irresponsible.
"I will also discuss with my lawyers after returning to Malaysia, regarding the defamatory false allegations thrown at me that have affected my reputation as deputy minister and MP.
"Police reports will also be made against irresponsible parties for hurling false accusations with the intention of misleading the people," Santhara said.
New Zealand has maintained some of the toughest travel guidelines in the world since March 2020.
The country is considered to have successfully coped with Covid-19, having recorded just 2,378 cases and a total of 26 deaths.