Sothinathan suspended for 3 mths

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk S. Sothinathan has been suspended for three months as Natural Resources and Environment Deputy Minister with immediate effect, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced on Wednesday.

He cited Sothinathan's outburst in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday over the derecognition of the Crimea State Medical University (CSMU) medical degree as the reason for the suspension.  

Abdullah said Sothinathan would resume his post upon expiry of the three-month term.  

"As a member of the government he should not have taken the stand to criticise the government. It is a breach of party discipline," he told reporters after delivering a keynote address at the Investors Conference held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the IslamicDevelopment Bank (IDB) here.  

The prime minister said Sothinathan, 45, will remain as the Barisan Nasional Member of Parliament for Teluk Kemang, the seat he defended in the 2004 General Election. It is learnt that the decision to suspend him was reached during the cabinet meeting in Putrajaya on Wednesday.  

Abdullah said Sothinathan, who is MIC secretary-general, could be the first member of the Malaysian administration to be suspended.  

Sothinathan had apparently irked BN Backbenchers on Tuesday when he interrupted Deputy Health Minister Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad over a point raised in explaining the decision to derecognise the CSMU medical degree.  

Abdul Latiff had said that those who studied medicine at unrecognised universities were given a chance to practise by sitting for qualifying examinations conducted by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).  

His remark that some 200 such doctors were Indians and that all BN component party chiefs, except MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, accepted the MMC decision, angered Sothinathan, who stood up and said: "We (MIC) are the party in government representing the Indian community... it is our duty to right a wrong when it happened."  

He went on to say that he disagreed with Abdul Latiff's statement that the majority of those who graduated from unrecognised universities were Indians.  

Sothinathan said CSMU was given a year to explain several issues raised by the MMC, including the university's acceptance of arts stream students who had failed their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination to follow the pre-medical course there.  

The university failed to respond to the questions, he added.  

Sothinathan who also spoke in the debate, questioned the action of Higher Education Ministry which issued "tidak membantah" (no objection) letters to Malaysian students who were not eligible to enter the pre-medical course at CSMU.  

Sothinathan said he raised the issue because he was concerned about the fate of Indian students studying at the university.

As of today, 1,157 Malaysian students are studying at CSMU, comprising 581 Indians, 231 Malays, 220 Chinese and the rest of other races.