“Not morally right”: Najib slams Santhara for 55-day trip to NZ during MCO

IT was not morally right for former deputy federal territories minister Datuk Seri Dr Edmund Santhara Kumar to take a 55-days leave to visit his family in New Zealand at the height of Malaysia’s movement control order (MCO) last year.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak said this at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court today when he testified on behalf of Batu MP Prabakaran Parameswaran who had been sued for defamation by Santhara.

Santhara is also a former tourism, arts and culture deputy minister in Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration.

The civil action filed by Santhara is based on statements made by Prabakaran during press conferences on March 17 and May 28, 2021, concerning Santhara’s leave from December 18, 2020 to March 20, 2021.

According to Santhara, he had obtained 55 days leave from Putrajaya to be with his wife who was ill at the moment and to visit his children in New Zealand, particularly one of his children who is furthering their studies. He also said that he underwent quarantine from Dec 24, 2020 until Jan 9, 2021.

At today’s hearing of the civil action before Judge Zulqarnain Hassan, the former Pekan MP stated that a minister and a lawmaker must be willing to make sacrifices, even if it means prioritising the people over their own family and friends.

Najib further pointed out that he had never taken more than two weeks leave during his BN-led administration from 2009-2018 as it was not right as a government leader.

Throughout the examination-in-chief by Prabakaran’s counsel Dinesh Muthal, the former premier said he wished to lead by example as a prime minister, and that if he had taken a 55-day leave, other people would have sought permission to do the same.

He recalled that in 2014 when he was on leave with his family in Hawaii, he had to cut his vacation short and return to Malaysia the instant he learned about the major floods on the east coast.

He also noted that when Santhara flew to New Zealand, many Malaysians had struggled to travel both domestically and internationally during the MCO period.

“In politics, it is not just about moral and formal authority but moral, in other words, you can give 55 days’ leave, but whether morally right to do so, should always be a major factor, and I do not think it is morally right for anybody to go for 55 days (leave), particularly during the time there was an MCO, it was during the Emergency, and people were not allowed to travel across state boundaries and overseas,” Najib was reported as saying by Malaysiakini.

“If I am not wrong, at the time there was (an incident in Malaysia about) many (people unable to leave homes during MCO) waving white flags, at times they needed food and they needed help.

“As deputy minister, you should be with people and show concern. That is the kind of narrative and message you should put across (as a lawmaker and minister).”

The former prime minister is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence in correlation with the RM42 mil SRC International case, which includes seven charges of power abuse, criminal breach of trust, and money laundering.

The former prime minister appeared in civil court today as a witness for defendant Prabakaran. – March 7, 2023

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