Rafizi abandons fair comment defence in PM, Rosmah’s suit

Rafizi Ramli’s lawyer says the PKR vice-president was only ‘jesting’ that Rosmah had ‘pocketed money’.

PUTRAJAYA: PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli and a portal owner have abandoned their quest to rely on the defence of fair comment in a defamation suit filed by Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor against the two over oil subsidies.

Their lawyer, Razlan Hadri Zulkifli, today told a five-member Federal Court bench that he had instructions not to pursue the appeal.

Razlan also did not offer any reason why he was withdrawng the appeal.

Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin then struck out the appeal.

Outside the court, Razlan told reporters the defendants were no longer relying on the defence of fair comment as Rafizi was only “jesting” that Rosmah had “pocketed money”.

Following this, he said the High Court in Kuala Lumpur would fix a trial date for the case to begin.

In June, Rafizi and Chan managed to obtain leave to appeal before a three-man apex court bench against the Court of Appeal’s decision.

A three-man bench, chaired by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum, approved three legal questions to be argued during appeal.

One question is whether the alleged defamatory words, spoken in jest and in a hyperbolic or exaggerated fashion, can qualify for the defence of fair comment.

High Court judge Noraini Abdul Rahman had in April 2016 dismissed Najib and Rosmah’s bid to remove Rafizi and Chan’s defence of fair comment as it was premature.

Noraini had wanted the trial to proceed and she would decide later whether the two were entitled to the defence.

Najib and Rosmah sued Rafizi and Chan in 2015 for allegedly defaming them as the former Pandan MP’s statement implied that Najib had unlawfully stolen the people’s money in connection with the oil subsidy removal.

Rosmah claimed Rafizi had suggested that she unlawfully benefited from the money.

The couple also claimed Chan had failed to exercise responsible journalism to verify the claims before publishing a video.

Rafizi, portal owner win right to challenge fair comment removal decision