Bukit Aman questions ex-envoy over FMT column on ‘demagogue’ Zakir Naik

Dennis Ignatius outside the Bukit Aman police headquarters after he was questioned by police for two hours over an article about Zakir Naik.

KUALA LUMPUR: Bukit Aman today questioned former ambassador Dennis Ignatius for two hours over his writing published on FMT last month on the growing influence of Indian Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik on Malaysia’s political landscape.

Ignatius defended his article titled “Why empower a demagogue like Zakir Naik?” published in his column on Aug 13, saying it was written in good faith as a concerned citizen.

He said among the questions police asked him was about his sources.

“I gave them 28 pages of statements and newspaper articles from Canada, India, Bangladesh and a whole bunch of countries describing the kind of person he (Naik) is and the threat that he poses to them,” Ignatius, who last served as the high commissioner to Canada before retiring after 36 years in the foreign service, told reporters outside the Bukit Aman police headquarters today.

He was accompanied by lawyer Kenny Ng Bee Ken.

He said he had also referred to statements about Naik made by Malaysian leaders including Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Ignatius was questioned as part of an investigation into Naik’s police report alleging criminal defamation.

The veteran diplomat has often criticised politicians from both sides of the divide.

Yesterday, he described as ironic that he was now being questioned for the first time over his views despite the promise of greater freedom under the “New Malaysia”.

“For me what I find strange honestly is, in all the ten years that I have been writing, I have never been called to the police to give a statement. Even during the ‘dark years’ of the Najib Razak period, I was never called, and I’m surprised. I think it’s so ironic that in this era of ‘Malaysia Baru’ I’m now being summoned to the police over a report made by a fugitive,” he said.

Ignatius was among five individuals who were called to the police over their statements critical of the controversial preacher.

Naik has also named in his police report Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran, Klang MP Charles Santiago, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy and Bagan Dalam assemblyman Satees Muniandy.

Naik claimed the five had made defamatory statements against him and wanted police to take action under the Penal Code and Sedition Act 1948 for defaming him over remarks he made during a lecture tour of Kelantan.

The preacher had 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.

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