PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has reserved ruling on whether to lift an injunction obtained by Prime Minister Najib Razak against Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua over a video posting which is deemed defamatory.
A three-man bench chaired by Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, who returned to the bench after a short recess, said a decision would be delivered on a date to be fixed.
“We deliberated the matter and could not come to a decision (today),” he said, adding that parties would be informed of the ruling date later.
Other judges on the bench were Zaleha Yusof and Yaacob Md Sam.
On Aug 4, High Court judge Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab dismissed Pua’s application that the video should remain on his Facebook page to be viewed by the public pending the outcome of Najib’s defamation suit.
Pua then filed an appeal against the ruling.
Najib’s lawyer Hafarizam Harun had told reporters that the judge felt it was best the video be removed to preserve the integrity of the trial.
The injunction means that Pua is barred from uploading the contents of the video on his Facebook page. The video had been removed from Pua’s Facebook on April 24 following a court order.
Najib, in his statement of claim, said the two-minute 21-second video, entitled “BN abandons all Bills to give precedence to PAS RUU355 Private Member’s Bill”, was uploaded on Pua’s Facebook page.
Najib said the live video was directed at him and was done with malice and bad intention to defame him.
Further, he said, Pua had also uttered statements in the video that the tabling of the bill was a charade to divert attention from the 1MDB fiasco and the RM2.6 billion found in the private accounts of Najib.
The prime minister is seeking from Pua an unconditional written apology to be published in at least two newspapers.
At the Court of Appeal today, lawyer Gobind Singh Deo submitted that the court should be slow in allowing an injunction on the video which was the subject matter of the defamation suit.
“We have set out in minute detail all the defences available to us like Najib’s bank accounts where a substantial amount of money was deposited,” he said.
He said evidence revealed that a total of US$731 million was transferred into Najib’s account from 2011 to 2013.
“It is for Najib to prove. However, the High Court judge in allowing the injunction to remain held that Pua’s defence is going to fail. How is that going to happen?” Gobind asked.
He said the injunction ought not to be granted as Pua had the “solid defence of justification”.
Urging the appeal to be allowed, Gobind said the judge not only misdirected himself but also ignored the overwhelming evidence in Pua’s defence.
Hafarizam said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in August 2015 informed the public that the RM2.6 billion (US$681 million in 2013) was a donation to the prime minister.
“The attorney-general (AG) in a press conference on Jan 26, 2016, confirmed the money was a gift from an Arab Royal family,” he said, adding that US$620 million was later returned to the donor.
He said the AG had informed the public that the prime minister had committed no criminal offence.
Further, Hafarizam said, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on April 7, 2016, also revealed that the RM2.6 billion did not come from state investor, 1MDB.
“This court must take judicial notice of the statements of the MACC and the AG, and the findings of the PAC,” he said, adding that Pua’s defence was not truthful.
Hafarizam said the injunction should remain in force or else it could cause irreparable damage to the prime minister.
This is the second lawsuit by Najib against Pua, the DAP national publicity chief.
Najib sued him for defamation in March 2015 over his speech on the 1MDB issue made at a DAP fund-raising dinner in November 2014.
Also named as respondent in that lawsuit was MediaRakyat portal owner Chan Chee Kong.
The matter is still pending in the Court of Appeal following an appeal by Najib.
Pua, on the other hand, filed a lawsuit against Najib for alleged abuse of the latter’s public office pertaining to 1MDB funds.
The High Court in September struck out the suit on the grounds that Pua had no legal standing and could not be an interested party in 1MDB, a finance ministry owned company.