MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Santhara's leave turns up the heat on NZ govt


The New Zealand government has kept mum on whether its guest and Malaysian deputy minister Edmund Santhara had received special treatment.

The matter was pursued by Wellington-based news organisation Stuff, which found that the New Zealand government was not forthcoming on Santhara's status in the country nor how long he waited for a quarantine spot.

The country's immigration department told Stuff that they were unable to provide any information on Santhara in the absence of a privacy waiver.

Similarly, a spokesperson for the business, innovation and employment ministry - which oversees quarantine facilities - said they cannot disclose such information, citing privacy.

Managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities in New Zealand are scarce. There are 32 facilities which can accommodate 6,260 people.

In October, the New Zealand government ordered Air New Zealand to freeze bookings because MIQ facilities were nearing capacity ahead of the Christmas holidays.

According to Santhara's personal account, he entered MIQ on Dec 24 last year.

Opposition National Party's Covid-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop said the government should confirm if Santhara did not receive special treatment.

Bishop said privacy was not a good excuse because it was inconsistent with the New Zealand government's position on previous cases.

"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 told Stuff.

"Privacy doesn't seem particularly important in that case and it shouldn't be here either."

According to Bishop, many New Zealanders are unable to return to their country, even to see dying loved ones, because of limited MIQ capacity.

Therefore, he said the public deserves answers.

"The real question is how he (Santhara) got into MIQ, (since) 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 up front about it," he said.

Santhara had explained that he had taken 55 days leave - including unpaid leave - to be with his family in New Zealand.

He said that his wife was sick and that he had not seen his child for over a year.

Santhara's revelation comes amidst strict travel restrictions for most Malaysians, who currently cannot even cross district borders, let alone go abroad for visits. - Mkini

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