Sultanah demands apology from Rewcastle-Brown in 8 days

Lawyer Mohd Haaziq Pillay Abdullah (left) holding up the book ‘The Sarawak Report – The Inside Story of 1MDB Expose’. With him is fellow lawyer Vishnu Kumar Athi Kumar. They are among a team of lawyers representing Terengganu’s Sultanah Nur Zahirah in a libel suit against Sarawak Report founder and editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers representing Terengganu’s Sultanah Nur Zahirah have given Sarawak Report’s Clare Rewcastle-Brown eight days to apologise over remarks in her book allegedly linking the royalty to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho and the 1MDB scandal.

Mohd Haaziq Pillay Abdullah, who is leading the team of lawyers, said a letter of demand has been issued to Rewcastle-Brown, together with Gerakbudaya Enterprise, the publisher of the book “The Sarawak Report – The Inside Story of 1MDB Expose” and printer Vinlin Press Sdn Bhd, two days ago.

“Sultanah Nur Zahirah has instructed my team of lawyers and I to initiate legal action against the Sarawak Report founder and editor to protect her integrity and interests, as well as safeguard the good name of the Terengganu royal institution.

“Rewcastle-Brown has eight days from Sept 27 to make a full written, unequivocal public retraction and written apology in terms to be approved by the sultanah’s lawyers.

“She has to give an undertaking to not repeat these statements,” he said, adding that Gerakbudaya and Vinlin also have eight days to do the same.

Haaziq told a press conference here today that the companies concerned also have to withdraw books which contain the offending paragraph from sale and circulation.

He also stated that RM100 million in damages was being sought, and that any award by the court would be donated to charity.

Haaziq further stressed that his legal action was not related to Rewcastle-Brown’s comments on 1MDB, and that it only focuses on page three of the book.

“The sentences are deemed defamatory as the sultanah had never interfered in government affairs; she was never involved with the establishment of the Terengganu Investment Authority and the sovereign wealth fund; and has never supported Low in obtaining the advisory role in the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA).

“Also, the sultanah does not know Low and her knowledge of him is based on media reports,” he said.

Haaziq claimed that Rewcastle-Brown’s remarks bore the interpretation that the sultanah was involved in corrupt practices, is associated and has close ties with persons of questionable character, namely Low, whose reputation, based on media reports, is that of a playboy and one who is sought by the authorities.

“We are of the view that Rewcastle-Brown’s statements are not justified, baseless and have aspects of insult. It has caused distress, embarrassment and injury to the reputation of the sultanah.

“When she read it, she was extremely distressed, very upset and, most importantly, hurt because these are malicious statements which were not verified,” he said.

Haaziq said the Terengganu palace’s Royal Comptroller, Pengelola Bijaya Diraja Terengganu Mohd Azmi Mohamad Dahamhad lodged a police report on the defamatory statements on Sept 14, after which the letter of demand was issued.

Two days ago, Sarawak Report had apologised if it had upset her due to any “misinterpretations” of the contents of their book on the 1MDB scandal. In a statement issued on the website, it clarified it did not in any way suggest that the sultanah was “in a conspiracy” with fugitive businessman Jho Low or “involved in government administration in the 1MDB affair”.

Neither did it suggest that the sultanah was in any way personally connected with TIA (of which her husband was chairman of the advisory board), let alone 1MDB, it said.

But Haaziq said Sarawak Report’s apology was not an apology.

“It is not an apology. It cannot be an apology. It is simple. The arrow has left the bow. It is not the terms of our demand.

“And I wish to state this so-called apology came about after we initiated the demand.

“It is not an unequivocal apology. It is a bit qualified. It says, if you feel hurt, if you misinterpreted, I’m sorry,” he said.

Haaziq added that if the three parties complied with their demand, they will not pursue the case as “we just want an unequivocal apology from all three parties”.