Civil society groups today questioned if there was a special law or standard operating procedure (SOP) which allowed the prime minister to approve an overseas trip for a deputy minister while the country was in lockdown.
They wanted Putrajaya to come clean on the issue revolving around Federal Territories deputy minister Dr Edmund Santara Kumar who was given approval by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to visit his family in New Zealand.
Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) head Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz said this incident was bound to anger ordinary Malaysians who need police permits to cross state borders.
“It is a reflection of how the government still fails to present a clear and fair SOP to all citizens, regardless of who they are,” said Faisal.
Edmund said yesterday that he was granted 55 days leave, including unpaid leave, to visit his family in New Zealand.
The leave was granted by Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa on December 3 and sanctioned by Muhyiddin on December 18.
Edmund was responding to reports claiming that he has been in New Zealand for the last three months while drawing a lawmaker’s salary.
Former prime minister Najib Razak had also questioned the Segamat MP’s absence, saying it would invite public anger if not explained.
Faisal said if there was such a provision that allowed a cabinet member to leave the country while the nation is under lockdown, it is against Article 8 (1) of the Federal Constitution where every person shall be equal under the law and have equal protection of the law.
“So, if the provision does exist, it is against Article 8 (1). The government must explain the reason behind his leave if the government is transparent and serious in combating the pandemic.”
“Until this issue is resolved, we want Putrajaya to stop enforcing the RM10,000 compound for Covid-19 offenders. Settle this double standard first before anything else,” he added.
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), meanwhile, said it was irresponsible of Edmund to cite family reasons to travel to New Zealand.
Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy said Muhyiddin was even more irresponsible for sanctioning the leave.
“After a year of witnessing so many cases of the government practising double standards, I think this is the most obvious incident,” he said.
“As an elected representative, he had the audacity to apply for leave to visit his family in New Zealand when ordinary Malaysians are fined and put in lockups for breaching simple SOPs.
“If this not a clear breach of ethics, I do not know what is. He is so irresponsible for saying he has the right to visit his family.
“How about other Malaysians who have not seen their families due to the movement restrictions? The PM too was irresponsible for letting him leave.”
Umno Supreme Council member Mohd Puad Zarkashi took to Facebook to ask how was it possible for a deputy minister to be granted 55 days leave to be with his family overseas when people are not allowed to cross district and state borders.
“YB Santhara gave the reason that he applied for leave and permission to travel to New Zealand to be a responsible father,” said Puad.
“What about regular Malaysians who are not allowed to cross district and state borders to visit their families? Are they irresponsible parents?”
Puad said as an elected representative, Edmund should instead visit his constituency more often.
“Isn’t a two-week break enough? During the Barisan Nasional era, the leave for ministers and deputy ministers would be frozen during the flood season.”
Last Saturday, Batu MP P Prabakaran also questioned Santhara’s whereabouts.
This followed a report by whistle-blower website Sarawak Report that Edmund has been in Auckland since December.
Edmund said he had complied with the Immigration Department’s procedure to apply for permission to leave the country (MyTravelPass).
The Segamat lawmaker said unpaid leave that exceeds his leave entitlement was also approved. He also denied that he left the country during MCO 2.0. – TMI