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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Anwar can file defamation suit as he has reputation to protect, says lawyer


Public figures like Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim should only file for defamation and not use state instruments such as the police and the public prosecutor to file criminal charges, lawyer Guok Ngek Seong said.

PETALING JAYA: Anwar Ibrahim has the right to file defamation suits both in his private and public capacities as the law permits him to do so even though he is now holding a very high public office, a lawyer said.

Guok Ngek Seong said a majority Federal Court ruling delivered last year (2021) stated that public officials too had a reputation to protect.

In that case, former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng won his appeal against Malay rights group Perkasa for labelling him a traitor for allegedly revealing national secrets to the Singapore government.

The lawyer said this in response to Anwar filing four defamation suits against Bersatu and PAS leaders after he was appointed prime minister.

The PKR president has filed a suit against Kedah menteri besar Sanusi Md Nor for allegedly insinuating he was immoral.

He has also filed a suit against Perak PAS chief Razman Zakaria over the latter’s claim that Anwar would promote a LGBT agenda, allow same-sex marriage and support the communist agenda.

Anwar has sued Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin over his allegation that he received RM15 million from the Selangor government while serving as its economic adviser.

He has also hauled Kuala Terengganu MP Ahmad Amzad Hashim to court for allegedly issuing defamatory statements that he (Anwar) lied about receiving a salary of RM1 when he was Selangor’s economic adviser.

Guok said public figures should only file for defamation action and not use state instruments such as the police and the public prosecutor to file criminal charges.

“Public funds will be used if investigation papers are opened for cases where civil suits should have been filed,” he said.

Guok, however, said public figures should sue in the capacity of their individual rights as a citizen.

He said they should not maintain a defamation suit in their capacity as public officials.

“Although Chong Chieng Jen’s case seems to allow government or government officials to sue for defamation, I disagree with such a proposition,” he said.

He said Anwar was right in suing the defendants as they had made personal and direct attacks.

However, lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar said persons who held high political office should refrain from instituting defamation suits unless it was a situation where there was no alternative.

For example, he said, where a specific charge of bribery was made.

He said the danger of defamation suits was that the defendants needed to only justify the sting of the libel.

Syed Iskandar said in Anwar’s case his pardon had completely vindicated him and so there was no necessity for a defamation suit.

“It will only provide his political opponents a chance to re-open the issues adjudicated upon in the criminal cases.”

He pointed out that former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad never filed defamation suits against anyone but used the media at his disposal to rebut allegations. - FMT

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