The Malaysian MP who took a 55-day leave to visit his family in New Zealand amid coronavirus travel restrictions has raised a lot of questions alluding to special treatment.
Deputy Minister for Federal Territories Edmund Santhara has been the target of a backlash after word got out that he traveled to New Zealand to meet his wife and children during the Christmas holiday season when so many New Zealand citizens were having difficulties flying home. While the 49-year-old MP for Segamat had defended himself on Monday that he had followed rules in relation to the trip, which he said was approved by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin without pay, New Zealand’s COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop, 37, told that country’s media outlet Stuff that his government had a lot to answer for.
“The real questions are around how he got into [managed isolation and quarantine], 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 need to be upfront about that,” Bishop was quoted in yesterday’s report, adding that the government’s refusal to disclose information in the name of privacy should not be an excuse.
Santhara was quarantined upon his arrival in New Zealand from Dec. 23 to Jan. 9. He was expected to return to Malaysia by the end of this month.
“I understand the privacy argument, but the government has been pretty forthcoming about how one of its own MPs, Ricardo Menendez March, was able to come back to New Zealand,” Bishop said. March had entered New Zealand three weeks ago from Mexico.
“Privacy doesn’t seem particularly important in that case and it shouldn’t be here either,” he added. Stuff had also published a photo of a home in an area called Epsom that it said belonged to Santhara’s wife Carline D’Cruz and their children.
Santhara wrote in his Monday statement that he was in New Zealand to visit his children, who were studying law there, and his wife, who he said was ill. He also planned to consult legal advisors over the reports made about him when he returns.
“As a Deputy Minister and MP, I would always uphold all rules and regulations during my time in office, and I have followed all the processes and procedures in place,” he said.
The Sarawak Report published an article late last month about Santhara traveling to New Zealand.
About 6,000 people were being isolated in New Zealand’s quarantine facilities, which are fully occupied until March 18.
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This article, How did Malaysian MP Edmund Santhara get into New Zealand? NZ’s COVID-19 rep wants to know, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.