KUALA LUMPUR: Controversial Muslim preacher Zakir Naik said Penang deputy chief minister II P Ramasamy is not entitled to raise public interest issues although he is an elected representative.
Naik, 56, a permanent resident who lives in Putrajaya, said this when cross-examined by lawyer Ragunath Kesavan, one of the counsel appearing for Ramasamy.
Ragunath: Is the defendant (Ramasamy) a deputy chief minister?
Ragunath: Is the defendant an elected representative?
Ragunath: Then, is he not entitled to make statements on public interest issues?
Naik: I disagree.
The lawyer was referring to a Nov 8, 2019 news report published by The Malaysian Insight news portal in which Ramasamy claimed that the arrest of 12 individuals over their alleged involvement with the now-defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was the work of Naik and his supporters.
He said the report was defamatory as Ramasamy was clearly referring to him.
Naik said he maintained that Ramasamy was also an LTTE supporter and that it was a disgrace for him to be involved, more so because he holds the post of deputy chief minister.
Ragunath: Do you stand by the statement?
Naik: Of course.
Naik also disagreed with the lawyer who suggested that there was no proof that the 12 were linked to the LTTE.
Ragunath: Nowhere was it shown that they were supporters of LTTE. Are you suggesting they are guilty just because the police arrested them?
Naik: They are allegedly involved.
(On Feb 21, 2020, then attorney-general Tommy Thomas announced that charges against the 12, including then Gadek assemblyman, G Saminathan, and Seremban Jaya assemblyman, P Gunasekaran, would be dropped.)
Ragunath: But you pleaded innocent when Indian authorities were investigating you.
Naik is wanted in India to face charges with investigating authorities claiming that he was involved in terrorism, causing enmity among religions and money laundering.
He also said the majority of Malaysian Hindus wanted him extradited to India, supporting Indian prime minister Narendra Modi instead of Malaysia’s then prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, on the matter.
Naik filed two separate suits, in October and December 2019, in which he sued Ramasamy for libel over various statements which were allegedly defamatory.
In the second suit, Naik alleged that Ramasamy had defamed him in comments made about the LTTE which The Malaysian Insight published.
Naik said the statements had caused him mental anguish, trauma and distress, and that he was exposed to personal harm after Ramasamy’s statements allegedly incited public anger.
He said the statements also tarnished his image and damaged his reputation in the eyes of the public.
Ramasamy is relying on the defence of justification and qualified privilege.
The hearing continues before judge Hayatul Akmal Abdul Aziz.