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 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 travel back and forth as alleged by Batu MP P Prabakaran in his Facebook posting stating that I had returned to attend the Federal Territory Day celebration.
“There are no issues that the Perikatan Nasional government is not being fair to the people here.
“I want to thank former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for his political maturity in politely asking for explanation over the issue and not accusing me like how Prabakaran did,” he said, adding that he will discuss with his lawyers upon his return to Malaysia over the slanderous allegations made against him.
He also expressed unhappiness with certain unnamed sections of the media whom he called irresponsible.
“Police reports will also be made against irresponsible parties for hurling false accusations with the intention of misleading the people,” Santhara said.
Last month, the Sarawak Report reported that the Segamat MP had flown to New Zealand on December 23 and had yet to return. It also claimed that his family was permanent residents there, while his children studied in Auckland.
Following that, Najib asked if this was true, demanding an explanation over the matter to avoid backlash from the people.