First off…. sorry ya… two Najib stories in two days. We really duwan one 🙁 #pleasedonseditionus
We’ve written an article on 1MDB before, on the hugeness of the whole controversy, and how each household would have to fork over RM4,000 to bail out the country over RM38 billion worth of debt if 1MDB bankraps (since then, the debt has grown to RM42 billion! *choke*). And the whole article (and ALOT of the controversy surrounding 1MDB) was actually based on this video.
So a few months ago…Najib decided to sue Tony Pua for defamation over 1MDB. Our PM has been threatening to sue Tony since November last year, but in March this year, he actually went ahead and did it. In May, Tony filed an application to strike out the suit. Oh, and Najib is suing not just Tony, but MediaRakyat owner Chan Chee Kong as well.
Before we go any further – what exactly is a defamation suit?
Malaysia has a very, very detailed Defamation Act 1957 which you can check out here. But thanks to this guy’s post, we’re able to digest this info. Basically, defamation occurs when a person expresses words that may lower another person’s reputation in the eyes of the public. Libel covers things on record (emails, signed notes, etc) and slander covers things said or implied (in conversation or action). Importantly, this can be either a…
1. Civil case – a private person sues another private person, then the punishment is compensation, which is decided by the judge depending on the damage caused.
2. Criminal case – the state (gomen) prosecutes a private person, then Section 499 to 502 of the Penal Code applies, and the punishment is straight out 2 years jail max and/or fine (amount not specified).
*Incidentally, there’s a how to sue for defamation post online…with pictures (daheck).
But this isn’t the first time Najib is suing people…
Najib has sued other people for defamation before. One was Malaysiakini on 3 June 2014, over reader comments published by the website, which you can read about here. You can also find the 30-page writ here. Malaysiakini said they had offered Najib their space to explain to the readers why he thought their opinions wrong, but Najib rejected it. Secondly, he’s also sued Harakahdaily over a report linking his stepson to 1MDB, titled ‘Dana 1MDB biayai syarikat filem Riza Aziz?’
But this is the FIRST time a Malaysian Prime Minister has ever sued an MP before. Not even Mahathir had done this. And it followed not long after with a defamation suit to another MP, this time to Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli for stating that rising fuel prices would allow Rosmah to buy more diamond rings.
Aiyo, it’s practically becoming a trend la. Trying to copy Singapore’s Prime Ministers or what? Lee Hsien Loong has sued blogger Roy Ngerng for defamation last year. Free Malaysia Today reported that Najib has been on this suing spree even as critics are saying that his days are numbered.
We found out that actually Najib has also been sued himself for defamation by businessman Deepak Jaikishan for these particular words: “it’s not true. He (Deepak) is not a credible person”, which you can read about here.
So what was the remark that got Tony in hot soup?
According to The Malaysian Insider, Najib said in court documents that he was disturbed by the robbing people remark.
“There is only one reason why I think can. The reason why can is because all these MCA, MIC, Gerakan kakis all don’t dare to challenge their prime minister, all say ok, ok, thank you, thank you, please carry on and rob the people’s money.” – Tony Pua, Petaling Jaya Utara MP, in the video
He claimed the remark was directed at him personally and it was hurting his reputation. He also stated that Tony did not obtain any comment from him so the video was one-sided. But we wonder if Najib would have accepted an invitation to a DAP fundraising party somehow. Plus, Najib claims that Tony is doing this to gain political mileage.
In return, Tony has a 23-page document of defence ready, for his “…duty as the people’s representative to raise issues of public interest”.Tony also said that the rakyat has the right to know about issues that affect them and is also relying on the defence of justification and that the info on 1MDB is true.
Speaking of which…..
Will Najib be forced to reveal anything new about 1MDB?
Lawyers we’ve spoken to think the PM will most likely focus the fight on these ‘slanderous’ WORDS – that those words have damaged his rep – rather than focus on the NUMBERS. By numbers, we mean the ones Tony revealed in his speech, such as: “debt of RM36 billion”, “RM7.2 billion parked in Cayman Islands”, buying IPPs for RM8.8 billion, RM2.3 billion or so, paying Goldman Sachs 10% fee to secure a US$4.75 billion (RM15.2 billion) loan, and so on.
Coz if the PM focuses on the numbers, he’ll have to prove that they are fake. But that IS the issue here, so surely the numbers will come up in court, right? Tony already has his defence of justification that the info he revealed is true.
However, only 1 or 2 things in the video need to be false for Najib to win the whole defamation suit. Meaning, if he can prove he hasn’t “Robbed Malaysia”, then he won’t have to prove that “1MDB is overpaying for loan facilities”
Also, our lawyer friends told us, because Najib is suing Tony, the burden of proof would be on Tony – which means that …
…Instead of Najib having to prove the allegations are false, Tony will instead have to prove that they are true.
What Tony Pua can do, is try put Najib on the stand, but it’s a bit too soon to tell. Generally, plaintiffs take the stand to explain how the defamatory remark has made their reputation suffered and stuff, but it’s possible for Najib to win the case without even taking the stand like Lee Kuan Yew has done before, according to our lawyer friends.
“There are several defences open to Tony [he names a few we mentioned above], but justification defence will be difficult because you have to prove Najib is corrupt. How sure are we that Najib is the mastermind? I mean, you can say he should be responsible by virtue that he is the Prime Minister, by virtue that he’s Chairman of the Board of Advisors, by virtue that 1MDB was his brainchild. But proving is a different matter.” – a lawyer that spoke to us but chose to be anonymous.
The lawyers we spoke to said if they can get Najib on the stand, it would be jackpot because during the cross-examination they can ask him such a wide scope of questions, ask him for disclosure of accounts, all sorts of questions to embarrass him, etc. “He is likely to fight tooth and nail not to go down to the stand,” they added.
And what does Najib want as compensation?
This appears to be a civil suit (between two individuals, so…)
- An apology and retraction published in 2 national newspapers (on a page and size of Najib’s choice).
- A written promise from Tony that he would stop further defamatory statements.
- Remove the video from the Internet.
- A ‘suitable sum’ in compensation.
Some lawyers we spoke to said that in a civil case, that compensation is unlikely to top RM1 million, although there are rare cases like when Tan Sri Vincent Tan was awarded RM10 million against several persons, including a journalist.
So why is Najib suing Tony?
The PM earns like RM273,920 a year, that’s RM22,826.67 a month. As for MPs, the salaries have been bumped up this year to RM16,000, plus allowances, it could easily push the pay up to RM35,000 a month. But even if the suit was worth RM10million, which is a decent sum of money for everyone, it is hardly worth Najib risking a MUCH bigger fish in the form of 1MDB’s porfolio which is worth a few hundred times that.
BUT… if there’s one thing that CILISOS knows, it’s that many Malaysians don’t read beyond the headlines. Imagine if this were to come out tomorrow.
Perhaps not with more well-informed readers like CILISOS has, but if this headline came out tomorrow, we reckon many people would assume that ALL the things Tony Pua said about 1MDB were false. And it will be less likely to tell them anything else next time.
Also, there’s the MAFAN factor, which we talked about here… which keeps Tony busy, and hopefully not snooping around suspicious sovereign funds cos he’s too busy defending himself. According to Tony’s lawyer Alliff Benjamin, the next case management session is fixed for 17 June, when the court is expected to schedule the date to hear Tony’ application to strike out the case.
As usual, all we Malaysians can hope for is some truth to come out about where our taxpayer money is going. What we can say is this – rather than suing an MP, perhaps he could just save himself the trouble and show everyone 1MDB’s accounts like US sovereign funds do?
Or maybe our PM does really need the money to boost his spirits.