NGOs ticked off for telling minister to withdraw suit

Health Minister Adham Baba is suing an NGO for RM30 million over allegations linking him to a government contract being probed by MACC.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers have criticised a group of 39 NGOs for demanding that the health minister withdraw his lawsuit against the Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4) which suggested he abused his powers in the awarding of a contract to a private firm.

They said Dr Adham Baba had every right to clear his name against allegations made by C4 which linked him to a company being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over a health ministry contract worth RM30 million.

Adham is seeking damages worth the same amount.

Yesterday, the NGOs called for the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of the lawsuit and accused Adham of harassing C4.

In a joint statement, they said the civil suit was “nothing more than an attempt to intimidate and silence critics”.

But lawyer R Kengadharan said a suit could not be a form of harassment if the plaintiff felt the comments he objected to were defamatory and had injured his reputation.

He told FMT that going to court was the “the best way” for Adham to clear his name.

He acknowledged that those holding public office could not consider themselves as being above criticism, but he added that they should not be expected to “lie low and accept it” if remarks made against them had elements of defamation.

He also said the court allowed for a fair playing field, where the contending parties can prove their claims.

“The idea of asking the minister to withdraw the suit is completely untenable,” he said. “I think it is a preposterous request.”

Meanwhile, lawyer Rajesh Nagarajan called for respect for the legal process and said C4, while entitled to reveal information it believes to be true, was nevertheless subject to the laws of the country.

He said Adham was entitled to prove his claim in court and have it adjudged.

Any statement that lowers the reputation of a person, he added, would be subject to defamation laws.

“The onus is now on C4 to adduce evidence and prove that the health minister has indeed indulged in acts of corruption,” he said.

C4 alleged a connection between the contract parties and a shareholder in Adham’s company, which owns a chain of private clinics in Johor.

It said the shareholder was on the board of another company that has two directors from Khazanah Jaya.

Adham has said that the accusation was a malicious attempt at character assassination.

MACC is investigating several contracts for the procurement of equipment to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak. The contracts were allegedly awarded after direct negotiations with the health ministry.

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