KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 — DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang today questioned the government’s decision to approve a minister’s unofficial visit to Turkey last month, saying Covid-19 was severe in the middle eastern country that has encountered over 250,000 cases and 6,000 deaths.
While he did not name the minister, the Iskandar Puteri MP was clearly referring to Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali who visited Turkey between July 3 and 7.
A source close to the minister previously claimed Khairuddin went to Turkey with the prime minister’s approval and that the country had been in the “green zone” at the time.
“The prime minister must explain to Malaysians what was the reason for him to give authorisation for the minister concerned to visit Turkey and to defy the Covid-19 SOP.
“Who declared Turkey as a ‘green zone country for Covid-19’; was it the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Turkish government or the Malaysian Cabinet?” he asked in a statement today.
Lim said Covid-19 was confirmed to have reached Turkey on March 11 the same day WHO declared it as a pandemic.
“The first death due to Covid-19 in Turkey occurred on March 15 and on April 1 it was confirmed that the virus had spread all over Turkey.
“When the Malaysian Minister visited Turkey for five days in July, there were over 1,000 cases of new Covid-19 infections each day, with total cases exceeding 200,000 cases during the period,” he said adding that by April 19 the number of confirmed cases in Turkey surpassed Iran making it the most affected country in terms of cases in the Middle East.
Lim then pointed out that the latest data for Turkey was a total of 253,108 Covid-19 cases and 6,039 deaths.
“Turkey is regarded as one of the ten top Asian countries for Covid-19 infections. When did Turkey become a Covid-19 ‘green country (zone)’ and who declared it,” he asked.
Lim said the minister clearly did not undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine after returning from the trip and has openly shown contempt for the rule of law espoused in the Rukunegara that was 50 years’ old this year.
He said the incident was an unmistakable signal that there was no rule of law in the country as there are two classes of Malaysians: ordinary citizens who must abide by the law and the prominent figures who could defy it.
On Tuesday, Khairuddin’s predecessor, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, pointed out that the minister had visited Turkey between July 3 and 7 but was already back in Parliament on July 13.
Yesterday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the minister should have been quarantined as it was compulsory to do so and that an investigation will be made into why this did not happen.
Under the National Security Council’s SOP, all returnees are tested on arrival and those with negative results must then serve out their 14-day quarantine while those testing positive are sent to a hospital for further treatment.
A breach of this order is punishable under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 by up to two years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both upon conviction.