Najib: Santhara shouldn’t have gone to NZ during lockdown

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Former prime minister Najib Razak told the sessions court today it was wrong for a former deputy minister to leave Malaysia during the movement control order (MCO).

Najib is a witness in a defamation suit filed by former federal territories minister Edmund Santhara Kumar against Batu MP P Prabakaran.

“During difficult times, one (a political leader) has to be with the rakyat,” he said, adding that people were barred from even crossing state borders during the MCO.

He said reports that Santhara had travelled to New Zealand and stayed there for 55 days left many dismayed.

“If they (people) are suffering, then you should suffer with them,” Najib said, adding he believed it was “morally wrong” for Santhara to travel out of the country at the time.

In his lawsuit, Santhara claims Prabakaran made “false” statements about his visit to New Zealand in 2020 and his responsibilities as a deputy minister at a press conference on March 17, 2021.

Najib said although the prime minister could allow a member of the administration to leave the country, Santhara was also the MP for Segamat.

“As an MP, you are accountable to the rakyat,” he said.

Prabakaran’s lawyer, Dinesh Muthal, then asked Najib if MPs like his client were entitled to question Santhara’s absence from official duties.

Najib said it was not wrong for Prabakaran to raise questions on the matter, so long as it was done in good faith and no personal attacks were made.

Santhara’s lawyer, N Krishnan, then cross-examined Najib on his “morally wrong” remark, arguing that his client’s New Zealand trip was not unlawful and that it had been approved by then prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Najib said Muhyiddin should not have approved it in the first place.

“When others are not even allowed to travel to other states (during the MCO), how can you justify (Santhara) going overseas for 55 days?” he said.

The hearing before judge Zulqarnain Hassan continues tomorrow. – FMT