Datuk Seri Najib Razak argued that his position as prime minister did not prevent him from suing individuals to protect his reputation from malicious slander. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 13 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak has argued that his position as prime minister, among others, did not eliminate his right to sue individuals such as Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik for defamation.
In a court document responding to Dr Ling’s claim that Najib’s lawsuit was an abuse of court process, Najib said he has the constitutional right to preserve and protect his dignity and reputation from malicious slander.
“As a Malaysian citizen, the plaintiff who is holding the post of a prime minister, the minister of finance, the member of parliament and the community leader, has the right to defend his dignity and reputation by instituting an action against the slanderer as provided by the law.
“This includes the right to sue the defendant upon his utterance of ‘The Defamatory Words’,’ he said in his January 12 statement of reply and defence to Dr Ling’s counterclaim.
Najib said there is no law that would deprive him of the right to sue Dr Ling for defamation purely because of his public positions – including being the head of the federal Cabinet and Umno president.
He pointed out that critics such as Dr Ling have the right to criticise, but this did not include the liberty to issue allegedly defamatory remarks that exceed legal limits and tarnish the target’s reputation.
“Criticism and strict observation may be exercised by any person so long as it is made in the realm of freedom of expression, as permitted by the law. Freedom of expression is not an absolute freedom, but subject to the parameters provided by law,” Najib said, adding that Dr Ling as an experienced elder statesman should have known of the consequences of his actions.
Najib also disagreed that he may not file the defamation suit in his personal capacity for criticism aimed at him as a public official.
In his statement of defence and counterclaim dated December 14, Dr Ling had said that Najib cannot sue for defamation as the latter in his posts as prime minister, finance minister and federal lawmaker is the “foremost public figure in Malaysia” who carries out duties and bears obligations to Malaysians.
Dr Ling said Najib therefore has to accept public scrutiny. “Thus the conduct, behaviour and acts performed by the plaintiff are matters of extreme public importance and interest which must be subject to public discussion as well as open to robust criticism and scrutiny,” the former transport minister had said.
Dr Ling also pointed out that the Barisan Nasional government led by Najib has pushed for public transparency, honesty and integrity at all government levels, before concluding that Najib has no legal standing to file this defamation suit since he had done so in his official capacity.
Last October 27, Najib filed the defamation suit against Dr Ling over the former MCA president’s reported remarks that the prime minister had allegedly taken money and put it into his personal accounts. – Malay Mail Online