MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, August 4, 2022

Sultanah had no hand in setting up TIA, says ex-MB


Former Terengganu menteri besar Ahmad Said says Sultanah Nur Zahirah mostly involved herself in official ceremonies, welfare activities and education matters. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Terengganu’s Sultanah Nur Zahirah never interfered in the affairs of the state government and was not involved in the establishment of the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), former menteri besar Ahmad Said told the High Court.

Ahmad said that as the wife of the sultan, the sultanah only accompanied the ruler to official ceremonies.

“She is more inclined to involve herself in welfare activities and education matters, as she is Tuanku Chancellor of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin,” he said when reading out his witness statement.

Ahmad, who was the menteri besar between 2008 and 2014, said he had knowledge and information regarding TIA because it was established under the auspices of the Terengganu government at the time he held office.

“TIA was originally established to bring in investments and stimulate the state’s economy,” he said when giving his evidence online.

However, due to a decision of the state government at the time, as well as on the sultan’s orders, TIA was taken over by the Minister of Finance (Incorporated) some time around July 2009.

Ahmad was testifying in a libel suit filed by Sultanah Nur Zahirah against Clare Rewcastle Brown, publisher Gerakbudaya Enterprise and printer Vinlin Press in 2018 for allegedly defaming her in a book titled “The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose”.

The impugned statement reads: “Jho (fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low) was also friendly with a key player in Terengganu, the wife of the sultan, whose acquiescence was needed to set up the fund (TIA) and he later cited her support as having been crucial to his obtaining the advisory position.”

The sultanah said the alleged defamatory statement implied that she had interfered in the administration of the state and had used her status to influence the establishment of TIA.

She is claiming general damages of RM100 million from each defendant.

The defendants said they were relying on the defence of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege.

In her book released in September 2018, Rewcastle Brown had claimed that the sultanah had a hand in setting up TIA and the appointment of Jho Low as its adviser.

However, in the same month, she acknowledged the error and clarified in a reprint of the book that it was the sultan’s sister, and not the sultanah, who was involved.

Despite this, the plaintiff proceeded with the suit as Rewcastle Brown had failed to issue an express apology.

Ahmad said he understood the disputed paragraph to mean that Jho Low was friendly with or close to the “main player”, namely the sultanah, whose support was needed to set up TIA.

“I also understood it to mean that her support was very important for him (Jho Low) to obtain the position and role of adviser,” he said.

Cross-examined by Americk Sidhu, counsel for Rewcastle Brown, Ahmad said he had not read the book.

“I am only proficient in Bahasa Malaysia,” he said.

Ahmad, who was on the TIA board, said there were several inaccurate reports in the media about Jho Low, but that no official rebuttal was issued as there was no necessity to do so at the time.

“Jho Low was not appointed adviser to TIA,” he said.

Americk: Was he adviser to the sultan?

Ahmad: That is beyond my knowledge.

The hearing before judicial commissioner Lee Kien How @ Johan Lee continues. - FMT

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