Are you serious in suing, Mr PM?

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When a letter of demand is served on a person, it is to make clear that your intention is to sue if your demands are not met according to the conditions set within the stipulated time.

It is in this context that the law firm, Hafarizam Wan & Aisha Mubarak, representing Najib had written to Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik.

This letter of demand was sent in response to Liong Sik’s statement that money had gone into Najib’s pocket. It was a serious accusation, no doubt about it. But the point is every word was meant: that the PM had taken money that was not his and put it into his pocket.

This was what Liong Sik said on 3 October 2015 in supporting Mahathir’s call for Najib’s removal as prime minister. Liong Sik was quoted as telling reporters, “I agree with Mahathir. Because he has taken people’s money and put it in his own personal accounts.”

Liong Sik further added, “I attended the Bersih 4 rally in Perth, Australia, to support a vote of no confidence against Najib, as he had taken people’s money and put it into his personal accounts.

“I feel that should not happen,” the former MCA president, who was in that position from September 1986 to May 2003, was reported as saying.

Liong Sik is no ordinary simpleton. He was the president of the MCA, the second largest political party in the country for 17 years and also a long-serving senior cabinet minister. He must have been aware of the serious implications of his statement and its repercussions. That did not deter him from voicing his frank opinion very openly.

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Following Liong Sik’s biting remarks, the prime minister’s lawyer had on 6 October 2015 demanded that Liong Sik should within seven days retract his defamatory statement, apologise and pay adequate compensation. Their letter threatened a defamation suit if their demands were not met:

“In the event that we do not receive any satisfactory response to the above, it shall be deemed that you do not dispute our client’s assertions as set out in this letter and, notwithstanding that, you intend to continue publication of the defamatory statement.

“In which case, we have our client’s strict instruction to commence legal proceedings against you and/or your related agent without any further reference to you, including applying for an injunction to restrain any such further publication,” the law firm’s letter stated.

To the amazement of Malaysians, Liong Sik boldly and uncompromisingly stated very firmly that he would not apologise but would stand by his statement. In fact, he seemed to relish the opportunity to do battle with Najib in court and appeared to be looking forward to it!

“I say to the Prime Minister, if you choose to sue me, I will defend myself.

“In all humility, I accept your challenge.

“I look forward to seeing the Prime Minister take the witness stand, as no doubt he would do if he says his reputation is at stake.”

This unexpected and admirable brave stand and collision course resorted to by Liong Sik must have rattled Najib and his lawyer. Perhaps they did not expect Liong Sik to confront them!

Instead of carrying out their threat to immediately proceed with their defamation suit, Najib’s lawyer meekly and strangely stated, “I will have to seek instructions from client.

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“PM is away and also very busy with budget preparations as the tabling of the budget is this Oct 23,” he said in a text response to Malaysiakini.

But what has happened to his forthright statement: “In the event that we do not receive any satisfactory response to the above, it shall be deemed that you do not dispute our client’s assertions as set out in this letter”?

What did the lawyer mean by asserting in the letter of demand, “In which case, we have our client’s strict instruction to commence legal proceedings against you … without any further reference to you, including applying for an injunction to restrain any such further publication”?

Was that just bravado – and nothing else?

According to the letter, Najib’s instruction to the lawyer was “strict”, specific and definite – proceed with the defamation suit if Najib’s demand was not met, and therefore the lawyer was legally committed to filing the case against Liong Sik without any further ado or reference. The letter to Liong Sik emphasised that fact unambiguously: “… we have our client’s strict instruction to commence proceedings against you …”

Why are they baulking now at this juncture?

The reason is simple – it is not too difficult to understand their reluctance. If they proceeded with the suit, Najib will end up by standing in the witness box, something they would fight tooth and nail to avoid and prevent. In that situation, he would be forced to answer questions that he had been evading, equivocating and dismissing frivolously. He cannot be wishy-washy in his responses.

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If Najib’s reputation was indeed at stake – indeed it is – the honourable thing to do is to sue Liong Sik immediately without dilly-dallying. It is a moral obligation to defend himself and clear his reputation, especially when he has maintained all along that he has been defamed by a pack of lies.

What is puzzling is why Najib threatened to sue Liong Sik? Wasn’t it to safeguard his reputation and integrity? By not pursuing the threat, he has become an object of ridicule, a laughing stock in the eyes of the international community.

Najib has lost his credibility totally. Didn’t he also threaten to sue the Wall Street Journal in July for publishing and alleging that RM2.6bn had mysteriously gone into his personal account. That threatened suit has fallen flat with no indication that WSJ will be taken to court to protect his image and the nation’s reputation.

All that had been alleged raises questions regarding Najib’s character, honesty and integrity. These are moral issues that cannot be ignored. Najib has to sue or he will forever be damned. What would the world think of a person who does not defend these values?

As citizens of Malaysia, we feel humiliated. So many accusations and so many allegations have been made which ridicule the prime minister and expose him as a person without integrity. And he is our prime minister!

Is it fair that we, as citizens, should be dragged into the pond and wallow in the mud of his shame?

P Ramakrishnan
Aliran Exco member
19 October 2015

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