Najib allowed to withdraw defamation suit against Tony Pua

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has allowed former prime minister Najib Razak to withdraw his suit against Damansara MP Tony Pua over the tabling of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Bill or RUU355.

Judge Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab said the withdrawal did not prejudice Pua as Najib had given an undertaking that he would refile a fresh suit later.

Zaki also ordered Najib to pay Pua RM30,000 in costs within 14 days.

“The defendant (Pua) and his lawyer have done a lot of work in preparation for the plaintiff’s application to withdraw the suit,” he said.

Pua’s counsel Tan Cheng Leong said he would obtain instruction from his client on whether to file an appeal.

Last week, Tan said in his submission that the move would cause prejudice to his client as there was no avenue for him to justify his statement over the bill.

He said Pua had also obtained leave to appeal from the Federal Court against an interim injunction order granted to Najib.

“Therefore, it is important for the issue to be decided by the Federal Court. It is unjust to my client if the court allows the discontinuation of the suit before the appeal is heard,” he said.

Najib’s counsel Mohd Hafarizam Harun however said the application would benefit Pua as his client had appealed to withdraw the suit with no liberty to file a fresh one.

“The defendant should have looked at this as a way forward, where parties walk over and let bygones be bygones,” he said.

On April 21 last year, Najib sued Pua in his personal capacity, alleging that Pua had made defamatory statements against him in a video relating to the tabling of a private member’s bill to amend RUU355.

Najib claimed the two-minute, 21-second video clip uploaded on Pua’s Facebook page entitled “BN Govt abandons all Bills to give precedence to PAS’ RUU355 Private Member’s Bill” could be accessed widely and freely on the internet.

He also claimed the video contained words referring specifically to him and implying that he had abused his power by giving orders through the Cabinet to the Dewan Rakyat speaker to give way to Marang MP Abdul Hadi Awang to propose the bill.

In his video, Pua had said that the tabling of the bill was a charade to divert attention from the 1MDB fiasco and the RM2.6 billion found in Najib’s private account.

On Aug 4, Zaki dismissed Pua’s application for the video to remain on his Facebook page to be viewed by the public pending the outcome of Najib’s defamation suit.

On Feb 14 this year, the Court of Appeal upheld Zaki’s ruling on the grounds that all investigation agencies and the Attorney-General’s Chambers had cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.

Last month, the Federal Court allowed Pua’s leave application to appeal against the interim injunction obtained by Najib.

A three-man bench led by Court of Appeal president Ahmad Maarof said each case involved questions of legal importance which needed further argument.

The bench allowed four legal questions framed by Pua which would be argued on a date to be fixed.

Court allows Pua’s bid to raise legal questions over Najib video