A New Zealand Covid-19 response spokesman has demanded answers on how deputy federal territories minister Edmund Santhara secured a place in the country’s highly limited managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system, questioning whether he had been given special treatment.
According to New Zealand news portal Stuff, authorities have not been forthcoming regarding Santhara’s immigration status or how he secured a place in the MIQ system, citing privacy policies that bar them from disclosing details about individual applications.
National Party Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop said this was not a suitable excuse, and that it was inconsistent with how the government had handled previous cases.
“I understand the privacy argument, but the government has been pretty forthcoming about how one of its own MPs, Ricardo Menéndez March, was able to come back to New Zealand,” Bishop said.
He said that many New Zealanders had been trying to re-enter the country during the pandemic, including circumstances where family members were ill or dying, and deserved answers.
“The real questions are around how he (Santhara) got into MIQ. There’s a highly limited number of spaces and so people would be pretty concerned if there was special treatment given to him and the government now needs to be upfront about that,” he said.
It also remains unclear whether Santhara travelled using a personal or diplomatic passport, as diplomats are exempt from paying MIQ fees.
Authorities were unable to answer questions regarding MIQ wait times during the period in late October or early November when Santhara began his application process, and the Prime Minister’s Office and Covid-19 response minister have declined to answer questions.
The PPBM Segamat MP has come under fire after it was revealed he had obtained approval for 55 days leave to travel to New Zealand to be with his family and sick wife.
In a response on social media, he said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had approved his application for leave and denied he had left during the movement control order period, stating he departed on Dec 23 and was quarantined until Jan 9. – FMT