Deputy Federal Territories Minister Edmund Santhara today sidestepped questions on his controversial recent trip and stay in New Zealand, saying that "the matter was over".
Met at a protest rally by a group of settlers at Ladang Tennamaram in Tanjung Karang, Selangor today, he said the question was also not related to the event.
"No, no. The matter is already over and they are not related (to this protest today).
"I have also made my statement (on the issue). If you want, we can meet another day," Santhara (above) told Malaysiakini when asked if he could respond to issues related to his stay in New Zealand.
The Segamat MP was at the protest (photos, below) with about 100 settlers to speak out against the Selangor state government. Also present was Tanjung Karang MP Noh Omar.
They claimed that the PKR-led state administration had treated some 300 settlers unfairly by leasing out an 800-acre land to two private companies without prior discussion with the settlers who have been there since 1995.
Santhara said that while he was not in his constituency and the fact that Selangor was not a federal territory, he nevertheless turned up to show solidarity with the settlers out of concern for their plight.
Some of the settlers had earlier taken the issue to his office and sought his assistance, he added.
Santhara came under the spotlight in February when news broke out about him taking a long leave from his duties as a deputy minister to visit and stay in New Zealand.
He returned to Malaysia sometime in mid-March, after over 80 days in New Zealand.
Prior to his return, Santhara had issued a statement explaining his reasons for taking the long leave which included being with his wife who had not been well and carrying out his responsibilities as a father.
Despite his explanation, the Bersatu associate member continued to receive heavy criticisms from the public for staying overseas when the country was battling a pandemic and many struggling to survive financially.
His return to the country also sparked further uproar when the health authorities allowed him to undergo home quarantine as opposed to the 10-day mandatory isolation at a designated quarantine centre.
Some described this as a case of double standards.