Lawyer: Najib’s defamation suit hinges on apex court’s decision

najib-Chong-Chieng-JenKUALA LUMPUR: A defamation lawsuit filed by the Sarawak government against a DAP MP in 2013 will determine whether Prime Minister Najib Razak, as a public authority, is able to sue for defamation.

Najib’s lawyer Hafarizam Harun told reporters that the Federal Court’s decision is important to his case against news portal Malaysiakini.

“The Federal Court’s decision will decide whether a public authority has the legal standing to bring a case against another person,” he told reporters at the High Court here.

He said the Federal Court would be delivering its decision on the Sarawak government’s lawsuit against Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen either at end of this month or in early March.

In Chong’s case, the state government and the state financial authority sued him for claiming RM11 billion in funds had disappeared “into a black hole”.

His statement was published in a Chinese national daily and a news portal, and in pamphlets distributed by Chong and the DAP.

The Kuching High Court in 2014 held that the state government and state financial authority were not allowed to sue Chong for defamation even though his words against the government were defamatory.

However, the Court of Appeal set aside the High Court decision in a majority 2-1 ruling.

Dissenting judge, Justice David Wong Dak Wah, in his minority judgment, said the government should not be allowed to sue individuals as it could resort to the criminal defamation law, the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Sedition Act to defend itself.

Meanwhile, the High Court fixed April 4 as the next hearing date for Najib’s bid to strike out Malaysiakini’s defence statement.

Najib and Umno executive secretary Ab Rauf Yusoh sued Malaysiakini and its editors in 2014 over two articles entitled “A case of the PM reaping what he sows” and “How much will Najib spend to keep Terengganu?”

They claimed the articles damaged their reputation and implied that Umno was incompetent as a political party.

Judge tells Najib, Malaysiakini to settle out of court

Not right for government to sue individuals, says lawyer