Deputy Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Dr Edmund Santhara Kumar has broken his silence to refute allegations that he travelled to New Zealand to escape his duties
His response comes after a report by Sarawak Report, which had on 27 February alleged that Edmund left the country amidst the pandemic to "enjoy Christmas in New Zealand" and "has not so far bothered to return".
In a statement yesterday, 1 March, Edmund — who is also the Segamat Member of Parliament (MP) — explained that he visited New Zealand to be with his wife who had fallen ill, not to skip his duties as a Cabinet member and MP.
According to New Straits Times, he said Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had on 18 December 2020 approved his 55-day unpaid leave. He said Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa had also granted him permission to take leave.
"The reason I left the country was to visit my children in New Zealand, particularly one of my children who is furthering (their) studies," he said
"Besides that, I needed to be with my nine-year-old child to carry out my responsibilities as a father, after not seeing them for nearly a year. I also needed to visit my wife who is suffering from health problems."
The Star reported Edmund as saying that one of his children is pursuing a law degree in New Zealand. He also lamented not being able to attend his nine-year-old child's holy communion ceremony.
He asserted that he complied with all rules for his New Zealand trip, arriving on 24 December and undergoing quarantine until 9 January.
The Segamat MP added that he remained committed to his duties to serve people in the Federal Territories and Segamat
"I have attended all Dewan Rakyat proceedings," he said, adding that his departure to New Zealand came before the second Movement Control Order (MCO) was reinstated.
"I have never applied for sick leave or taken a holiday since I was appointed Deputy Minister on 10 March 2020. This is to ensure that I can always provide the best service to the people in dealing with all issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Edmund also denied that he had returned to Malaysia to attend the Federal Territories Day celebration on 1 February.
He plans to file a police report against the news organisation that made the accusation.