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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Withdraw Sarawak Report book or face RM100m suit, says Terengganu sultanah's lawyers

Lawyers representing Terengganu Sultanah Nur Zahirah have demanded that the publisher and printer of The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expos√© withdraw the book from further sale and circulation.
Mohd Haaziq Pillay Abdullah said a letter of demand to that effect had been served to publisher Gerakbudaya Enterprise and printer Vinlin Press Sdn Bhd on Sept 27, as well as the book’s author Clare Rewcastle-Brown.
They have eight days from the date of service to comply, Haaziq said, or they would each face a suit demanding RM100 million in damages.
The sultanah’s lawyer said the proceeds of any damages awarded by the court would be donated to charity.
“The sultanah does not want the money, but wants to preserve the reputation of the Terengganu royal household and her position as her royal highness the sultanah,” he told a press conference in Petaling Jaya today.
Haaziq was accompanied by members of his legal team, as well as the royal comptroller of the Terengganu Palace, Mohd Azmi Mohamad Daham.
The lawyer also requested that Rewcastle-Brown, Gerakbudaya, and Vinlin issue a full, written, and unequivocal retraction and apology for the allegedly defamatory statement contained in the book within the eight-day period, as well as undertaking not to repeat the statement.
He added that the statement supposedly defamatory to the sultanah is on page 3 of the book, which is part of the book’s prologue.
It reads: "Jho was also friendly with a key player in Terengganu, the wife of the sultan, whose acquiescence was needed to set up the fund and he later cited her support as having been crucial to his obtaining the advisory position.”
The passage refers to the controversial financier Low Taek Jho and the setting up of the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), which later became 1MDB when the federal government took over the sovereign wealth fund.
According to Haaziq, the sultanah came across the passage when reading the book, became extremely distressed and upset, and immediately instructed the palace to lodge a police report.
He added that the royal comptroller carried out the instruction on Sept 14.
The lawyer claimed that the passage implies that the sultanah is involved in corrupt practices, has close ties with persons of “questionable character,” and has influence over the state’s administration.
Though pointing out that the other allegations in the book, especially those relating to 1MDB, are of no concern to him, he stressed that the sultanah has never interfered in government affairs and was never involved in TIA’s establishment.
In addition, she never knew Low, nor supported him in obtaining his advisory position in TIA.
“Rewcastle-Brown’s statements are unjustified, baseless, and have aspects of insult,” he said.
'Qualified apology'
As for Rewcastle-Brown’s apology published on her blog on Thursday, Haaziq (photo) said it was a qualified apology rather than the unequivocal apology that the sultanah demands.
“In our view, it is not an apology. It cannot be an apology.
"It is simple: The arrow as left the bow. This is not the terms of our demand, and I wish to state that this so-called ‘apology’ only came about after we initiated the demand, and it is not an unequivocal apology.
“If you look at it, it is a bit qualified – that if you feel hurt, if you misinterpreted it, I’m sorry. That’s not the way defamation law works,” he said.
Rewcastle-Brown’s statement on Thursday reads: “With regard to the complaint by the sultana(h) of Terengganu, Sarawak Report is happy to clarify that the passage in the book The Sarawak Report does not in any way suggest that the sultanah was 'in a conspiracy' with Low nor 'involved in government administration in the 1MDB affair’ or that the sultanah was in any way personally connected with TIA (of which her husband was chairperson of the advisory board), let alone 1MDB.
"...We suspect this matter has been deliberately misinterpreted to the sultanah by people seeking to cause trouble, and assure her that a careful reading of the short passage should make it clear there is no allegation made against anyone in the Terengganu royal family regarding the 1MDB affair, which took place after any involvement by the state ceased in that fund.
"We are sorry if she has been upset by any misinterpretations of our meaning and trust this clarifies the matter." - Mkini

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