PETALING JAYA: A civil society leader has been slapped with a defamation suit by Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (SYABAS) for writing an article critical of the water situation in the state.
Isham Jalil, who is president of Sukarelawan Malaysia, said he received the summons and the statement of claim from a legal firm representing the company two days ago.
“I have appointed a legal firm to contest the suit. It is politically motivated and is to stop me from exercising my right of expression,” he told FMT.
The article, “Selangor facing a serious public health issue”, appeared in the New Straits Times on March 19, just before the 14th general election.
The Bahasa Malaysia version “Isu air Selangor dan kesihatan awam” appeared in Berita Harian on the same day.
Isham said he did not mention SYABAS’s name in his article but the company was asking for damages and other relief deemed fit by the court.
“They also want an injunction to retract and not to further publish the article,” he said.
He said the article was written a few days after consumers in the state went through a water cut that lasted 10 days.
Isham, who was a special officer to former prime minister Najib Razak, said he highlighted in the article the fact that people were facing serious problems due to frequent water disruptions. He had also written that the quality of water distributed was suspect due to pollution and contamination.
He said he had substantiated his claims with facts and figures and that he had written the article because the subject matter was of public interest.
“I will not be cowed by the suit and will stand firm with what I have written. I will exercise my constitutional right to speak without fear or favour,” he added.