Minister quits after starring role in porn film

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The Independent Online

Malaysia's health minister resigned yesterday after admitting he and a female friend were the couple who appeared in a secretly filmed sex video, which has severely embarrassed the government in an election year.

A one-hour DVD circulated anonymously last week showed Chua Soi Lek, a married man with three children, performing sexual acts with the woman in a hotel room.

Mr Chua, 61, admitted that he was the man in the video and described the woman as a "personal friend." He refused to elaborate.

The former physician has risen fast in the government in recent years but the scandal turned into a high-profile embarrassment for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who brought Mr Chua into the cabinet in 2004.

Mr Chua said yesterday he was resigning immediately from all his posts; as health minister, member of parliament and vice-president of the Malaysian Chinese Association, the second party in Mr Abdullah's ruling coalition.

"I am relinquishing my positions," a calm-looking Mr Chua told reporters, adding he had discovered that people "could not accept" his public apology for his actions.

"Some Malaysians have a holier-than-thou attitude," he said. "I think that anyone who is a leader has to be responsible for his mistakes or weaknesses," Mr Chua said. "I feel proud at least I dared to admit it. I never said that it was not me (in the DVD). I never even said that it was doctored."

The scandal has already provided political ammunition for opposition groups, which often raise allegations of government immorality and misconduct.

"As a minister, he has committed an act that cannot be accepted by society, instead of being a leader who maintains his integrity," said Mahfuz Omar, an official in the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party.

Mr Chua's resignation appeared to be aimed at helping the government contain political fallout ahead of general elections widely expected by the middle of this year.

Mr Abdullah described the resignation as appropriate, saying that it was not discussed at yesterday's cabinet meeting. He said an acting health minister would be appointed from Mr Chua's party.

The party's president, Ong Ka Ting, said the party accepted Mr Chua's resignation, and condemned those responsible for filming the video secretly.

Mr Chua apologised to his family and supporters. In a statement, Mr Chua's wife said she stood by her husband. Mr Chua said he did not make the film, suggesting it was made by his political rivals.

Lim Guan Eng, secretary general of the opposition Democratic Action Party, said Mr Chua's fate could indicate a factional dispute in the Malaysian Chinese Association, which has periodically suffered intense in-fighting. "Power struggles... are common in the jostling for positions before general elections, which benefit individual selfish interests at the expense of public interests," Mr Lim said.

As health minister, Mr Chua had been praised for cutting bureaucratic delays in medical services and working to combat Aids, smoking and junk-food consumption. He is the highest-ranking politician to be caught in a sex scandal since former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was expelled from the ruling party for allegedly sodomising his family's driver.

A court later overturned Mr Anwar's conviction. Mr Anwar insisted the accusation was fabricated to kill his career.

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