PETALING JAYA: Five defamation suits filed by Najib Razak against his adversaries will determine next year whether the prime minister, as a public official, has the legal capacity to obtain legal remedy.
However, this can only be determined after the Federal Court hears the appeal by Pahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob, whose suit against Utusan Melayu (M) Berhad was struck out as the action was filed in his official capacity.
This came after the court accepted the 1993 legal principle established in the Derbyshire County vs Times Newspapers Ltd case an said it could be applied here.
In that case, the court had ruled that local authorities could not institute legal action based on public criticism.
The apex court has fixed Feb 13 to hear Adnan’s appeal.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was the first casualty when the Court of Appeal on Dec 20 dismissed his suit against two Umno-linked media groups and three others on a preliminary objection.
The High Court had last year awarded Lim RM550,000 in damages for labelling him a “Singapore spy”.
Last week, the High Court adjourned its decision to March 23 on whether to strike out Najib’s suit against former minister Ling Liong Sik, who had claimed the prime minister had “taken people’s money” in relation to the RM2.6 billion donation issue.
Judge Nor Bee Ariffin wants to wait for the final outcome of the Federal Court ruling in Adnan’s appeal as the apex court decision will bind the High Court.
Other cases pending in the High Court are Najib’s suit against Petaling Jaya MP Tony Pua and Mediarakyat.net owner Chan Chee Kong over comments made by the MP during a DAP fund-raising dinner, which were then uploaded onto the portal.
The prime minister alleged that Pua’s speech meant he had robbed the people of their money with regard to 1MDB transactions and he cannot be trusted and was allegedly not qualified to hold public office.
Pua now wants to strike out Najib’s suit as the prime minister cannot sue him in his capacity as a public officer.
Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, filed a suit against PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli and Chan (Mediarakyat.net owner) for allegedly defaming them over the removal of oil subsidies.
The couple claimed the Pandan MP’s statement implied that Najib had unlawfully stolen the people’s money in connection with the oil subsidy removal.
Najib also sued Harakah managing director Rosli Yaakob and Harakahdaily chief editor Taufek Yahya over an article published in PAS’ mouthpiece, Harakahdaily, in relation to 1MDB and Riza Aziz, his stepson.
In 2014, Najib made history by becoming the country’s first prime minister to sue a media organisation, Malaysiakini, for libel. However, it was for allowing libellous comments by its reader, which were posted on its website.
In all the cases, Najib and the defendants, over the last two years, had filed numerous interlocutary applications and this had resulted in the defamation suits yet to be heard.
Najib’s lawyer Mohd Hafarizam Harun said his client wanted to defend his reputation after allegedly being slandered.
“Najib is a ‘serious litigant’ and is willing to take the stand in court,” the lawyer told reporters.