Ex-envoy next to be called by Bukit Aman over Zakir Naik’s complaint

Dennis Ignatius says he is exercising his democratic right through his critical writings.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former ambassador Dennis Ignatius will be called in by Bukit Aman tomorrow over a report against him and four others by fugitive Indian Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik, a source told FMT.

When contacted, the veteran diplomat who is also a columnist with FMT, confirmed that he has made an appointment with the police and defended his writings as part of his democratic right.

“As a former ambassador, concerned citizen and FMT political affairs columnist, I have an obligation to speak up and write about issues that affect the peace and security of our nation.

“It is a privilege accorded to me as a citizen under the constitution and is a vital part of the democracy and freedom of expression that underpins Malaysia Baru,” Ignatius, who last served as the high commissioner to Canada before retiring after 36 years in the foreign service, told FMT.

Ignatius is the fourth to be questioned by the police after Klang MP Charles Santiago, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy and Bagan Dalam assemblyman Satees Muniandy.

Naik has also named Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran, claiming they made defamatory statements against him.

Ignatius said he looked forward to explaining to the police why he felt Naik’s continued presence was not in Malaysia’s best interest.

He said such a view was also reflected by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who said that no government would accept Naik.

Ignatius said this would be his first time being called up by the authorities after years of writings critical of the government including the current administration.

He described the police investigation as “ironic”.

“In all that time, all through the dark years of Umno-BN rule even, I was never called up by the police or threatened with lawsuits.

“It is ironic, therefore, that now, in this era of Malaysia Baru, I find myself summoned to Bukit Aman to record my statement because of a police report filed against me by a fugitive from India.

“While I understand, of course, that the police must do their job, I am sure many Malaysians will share my dismay at these developments,” he said.

Writing in his column in FMT on Aug 13, Ignatius, who has been critical of politicians from both sides of the divide, warned of Naik’s growing influence in the wake of several remarks the latter made allegedly disparaging Malaysian Chinese and Indians.

“When are our politicians going to realise that they are empowering a dangerous and incendiary demagogue who is destabilising our country and destroying what remains of our fragile unity?” he had asked.

Naik himself was questioned for several days by the police under Section 504 of the Penal Code for intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace.

He reportedly described ethnic Chinese as “guests” when responding to growing calls for him to be deported, and accused Malaysian Indians of being loyal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He has since apologised, but says he was a victim of a vilification campaign.