Rewcastle-Brown settlement won’t change public perception of PAS, says lawyer

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang has agreed to settle his defamation suit against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown out of court. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: An out-of-court settlement between Abdul Hadi Awang and Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown will not change public perception about PAS leaders, a lawyer said today.

SN Nair said the allegations that PAS leaders took money to support Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) would remain in public memory even after the withdrawal of the defamation suit.

“A settlement does not negate the original allegation by the defendant (Rewcastle-Brown),” the senior lawyer said.

He added that Hadi should have continued with his legal battle until he received a declaration from the court.

“A plaintiff, or one who files a plea, files a defamation suit to vindicate himself to obtain compensation for damage done to his reputation,” he said.

Alternatively, a plaintiff would demand a public apology with or without costs, and offer to withdraw the case.

Under the settlement, however, Hadi had agreed not to disclose the terms of the settlement with Rewcastle-Brown.

He said the decision was based on advice by his legal team which had scrutinised the overall court action.

Hadi filed the suit at the London High Court following an article by Rewcastle-Brown, published in Sarawak Report on Aug 6, 2017.

The eight-paragraph article alleged that RM90 million was deposited in the bank accounts of PAS leaders for their support of Umno and BN.

In her defence to Hadi’s suit last April, Rewcastle-Brown said the PAS leader was not named or identified in any statement in the article.

In her counterclaim filed on Oct 11, she alleged that Hadi had conspired with then-prime minister Najib Razak or his agents to discredit her and the portal.

Rewcastle-Brown also claimed that Hadi, either himself or through his agents, had been party to the publication of a series of articles, viciously or racially abusing, defaming and harassing her on other portals.

Despite the out-of-court settlement, Rewcastle-Brown’s article remains online and unaltered.

Nair said in a defamation suit, it is the plaintiff who will be on trial and who should therefore consider carefully whether to go to court.

“Once filed, the plaintiff must go all out to clear his name and obtain the remedy sought,” he added.

Senior lawyer Ang Hean Leng meanwhile said Hadi’s action meant the status quo would remain unchanged.

He said it appeared that Hadi’s action was not properly planned.

“It also reinforces the perception that the legal action was ill conceived,” he added.