Malaysia's Health Minister Resigns Over Sex Video Scandal

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

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

Chua, 61, has admitted 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 Chua into the Cabinet in 2004.

Chua said Wednesday he was resigning immediately from all his posts as health minister, member of Parliament and vice president of the Malaysian Chinese Association, the No. 2 party in Abdullah's ruling coalition.

"I am relinquishing my positions," a calm-looking Chua told reporters, adding that 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," Chua said. "I feel proud at least I dared to admit. 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.

Chua's resignation appeared to be aimed at helping the government contain any political fallout ahead of general elections widely expected by mid-2008.

Prime Minister Abdullah described the resignation as appropriate, saying it was not discussed at Wednesday's Cabinet meeting. He said an acting health minister would be appointed from Chua's party, the Malaysian Chinese Association.

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

Chua apologized to his family and supporters Tuesday. In a statement, Chua's wife said she stood by her husband. 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 Chua's fate could indicate a factional dispute in the Malaysian Chinese Association, which has periodically suffered intense infighting.

"Power struggles ... are common in the jostling for positions before general elections, which benefit individual selfish interests at the expense of public interests," Lim said.

As health minister, Chua had been praised for cutting bureaucratic delays in medical services and working to combat AIDS, smoking and junk food consumption.

Chua 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 and arrested in 1998 for allegedly sodomizing his family driver.

A court later overturned Anwar's sodomy conviction. Now a key opposition leader, Anwar has insisted the accusation was fabricated to kill his career.