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10 APRIL 2024

Thursday, March 31, 2022

My FB post on cronyism was not about Dzulkefly - Najib


Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak filed in court that his Facebook (FB) posting on the issue of cronyism was not referring to ex-health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad.

Najib made this contention in his statement of defence against a defamation suit by the Amanah lawmaker.

The former Umno president’s line of defence is similar to that of Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, who is also being sued by Dzulkefly over similar online posts related to cronyism.

On Dec 31 last year, Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly filed the defamation civil action against Pekan MP Najib over the latter’s FB post uploaded on Aug 24, 2020, which purportedly contained the allegation that the former practised nepotism.

The alleged nepotism was in relation to the 2019 appointment of Dzulkefly's daughter Nurul Iman to the board of Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM).

This allegation was also at the centre of the Amanah strategic director's separate civil action against Asyraf Wajdi.

Statement of defence

In Najib’s statement of defence filed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court two days ago and sighted by Malaysiakini, the BN advisory board chairperson contended that the impugned FB post was not referring to Dzulkefly or related to him at all.

He was referring to his FB post which was enclosed with a screenshot of two Sinar Harian articles.

According to Dzulkefly's statement of claim, the articles published in January 2019 titled 'Junaidah nafi dilantik pengerusi AIM kerana kronisme' and 'Kronisme AIM: Pelantikan anak menteri tiada kaitan dengan KKM'.

KKM is the Bahasa Malaysia acronym for Health Ministry, while Junaidah referred to AIM's chairperson Junaidah Kiting.

“However, the defendant (Najib) strictly denies that the impugned post refers and/or relates to the plaintiff (Dzulkefly) nor was there any intention to defame the plaintiff.

“In the circumstances pleaded above, the defendant further states that the impugned post was in reference to the Pakatan Harapan coalition and accordingly no defamation has been occasioned against the plaintiff,” Najib claimed.

“In the circumstances, the defendant was highlighting the hypocrisy of the Harapan coalition party for alleging nepotism, cronyism and political appointments against the defendant’s political coalition (at the time the Perikatan Nasional coalition) regarding appointments to various government-linked companies (GLCs) despite the fact that while Harapan was in government, appointments of similar nature were made without protest or like allegations by Harapan,” Najib alleged.

Postings contained no allegations

The Umno lawmaker contended that his posting contained no allegations, whether directly or indirectly, that any of these appointments were wrong.

Najib claimed that his FB post was accompanied by the Sinar Harian screenshot, in order to allow the public to fairly assess the issue at hand, including providing an avenue for Dzulkefly’s stand on the matter to be considered by the public at large.

“The defendant further pleads that he has no control over the headline published by Sinar Harian and that this writ of action is made in bad faith (mala fide) as the defendant has been selectively sued for political mileage and the plaintiff’s waning popularity.

“This is evidenced by the fact that no action has been taken against Sinar Harian on the article itself,” Najib claimed.

The former finance minister also raised justification, qualified privilege and fair comment among other lines of defence against Dzulkefly’s civil action.

Former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad

Under the law of civil action for defamation, justification is a defence that the statements or allegations are true, and if proven successful in court, this would act as an absolute defence against the legal action.

Qualified privilege is a defence that applies in a situation where the words were issued by a person who has an interest or a legal, social, or moral duty to do so.

Fair comment

The defence of fair comment is one where the impugned statement was made as a fair comment (rather than as a statement of fact) over an issue of public interest.

Meanwhile, according to Dzulkefly’s counsel Sankara Nair, the legal action is fixed for case management on April 14.

The lawyer said that the High Court set the case management date to update on any reply that Dzulkefly may wish to file against Najib’s statement of defence.

“The court took notice of the filing of the statement of defence by the defendant, and further directed the plaintiff to file his reply to the defence latest by April 13, 2022,” the counsel said.

Najib is represented by lawyers from law firm Shafee & Co. - Mkini

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