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Malaysia's deputy minister back home after controversial New Zealand trip

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – A Malaysian deputy minister who made a controversial 55-day trip to New Zealand to see his family amid Covid-19 travel restrictions, has returned home.

Deputy Federal Territories Minister Edmund Santhara Kumar is undergoing home quarantine, his private secretary Muhammad Effi Arpan told news site Free Malaysia Today.

The Member of Parliament for Segamat in Johor returned last week and was working from home, the aide said.

“He will only attend physical meetings after he has completed quarantine,” Mr Effi was quoted as saying.

The trip by Datuk Seri Kumar caused an uproar, as some see it as the Malaysian government once again practising double standards, by allowing a politician to go on long leave to see his family. The opposition called for his resignation.

Front-line health workers are generally barred from applying for leave and cannot freely cross state lines to see their families.

Defending himself, Mr Kumar on March 1 said his trip to New Zealand was approved by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and that he had complied with the required procedures to apply for permission to leave the country.

Mr Kumar said he had applied for 55-day leave through the Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa to obtain the Prime Minister’s approval in a letter dated Dec 3, 2020.

The application was supported by Tan Sri Annuar on Dec 10 and approved by Tan Sri Muhyiddin on Dec 18.

Mr Kumar said he also complied with Immigration Department procedure to apply for permission to leave the country by applying for the MyTravelPass online, adding that he submitted his application on Oct 30 and received approval on Nov 2.

He said he left Malaysia on Dec 23 after attending a meeting and underwent quarantine in New Zealand from Dec 24, 2020 to Jan 9, 2021.

The deputy minister called himself a “responsible father”, saying that he was visiting his wife, who he said has health problems, and to see his children.

“The reason I left the country is to visit my children in New Zealand, in particular, my child who is pursuing law studies. As a responsible father, I also need to see my nine-year-old child after almost a year of not meeting.

“In addition, I must visit my wife who is suffering from health problems. I was also unable to attend a ceremony for my nine-year-old to receive holy communion because I was always busy with my duties as a deputy minister and an MP,” he said in a statement on his Facebook page in early March.

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