What if Najib or 1MDB sued WSJ?

 By Stephen Ng

COMMENT We are all waiting for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s one major decision – to take the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) to court.

Although WSJ’s report has been most damaging to his reputation, as well as the reputation of Malaysia as a country, both Najib and 1MDB could only afford to skirt around the allegations made by WSJ instead of suing WSJ.

For example, 1MDB in a statement accused WSJ’s reporting “has never been called into question, is not only disingenuous but an outright lie”. If it has never been called into question, then why not challenge WSJ in court?

As usual, ministers such as Azalina Othman could only use the same line of argument – that “there are parties from within the country and outside who are trying to use back-handed tactics to topple the democratically-elected prime minister.”

We recall years ago, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad also said the same of George Soros and the Jews, in order to cover up the weaknesses of his own administration. I see this as some people becoming bankrupt of ideas that they have to use the same line.

Meanwhile, I am always amused by responses from two other ministers. One of them, however, has remained silent but Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan has made a sweeping statement that WSJ has “broken every rule of journalism in the book. How do we know these people even exist?”

I just wonder what he means by “every rule of journalism”! In journalism, it is perfectly fine to quote someone who prefers to remain anonymous, but if there is a need to produce the witness in court, then the journalist could be compelled to reveal the sources.

Why so unwilling to sue WSJ?

My question therefore, is why is Najib and 1MDB seemingly so unwilling to drag WSJ to court?

Perhaps, one hint lies with the answer given by WSJ’s finance editor Ken Brown, who told ABC News Australia on Feb 12 that his team has “loads of evidence to back up” their story.

Whereas Najib and his men’s story keeps changing over the identity of the donor, Brown maintains that the money funnelled into Najib’s personal accounts came from a “bunch of companies and bank accounts related to 1MDB.” Although we may give Najib the benefit of the doubt, Brown’s allegations certainly warrant an appropriate reaction since Najib’s international reputation is now at stake.

Yet, why do we see Najib and 1MDB dragging their feet despite being challenged to drag WSJ to court?

Najib and 1MDB president Arul Kanda Kandasamy know that they are not dealing with any Tom, Dick and Harry from the streets of New York. WSJ has been around since July 8, 1889, and today, it is the largest newspaper in the United States by circulation, with over 2.4 million copies in print (including 900,000 digital subscriptions).

There you go, our Rahman Dahlan is giving a lecture to journalists from the WSJ! Having graduated from Sonoma State University in California, Rahman should know better what WSJ stands for in the United States.

WSJ would not publish anything that is serious in its allegations against a country’s prime minister unless it has “loads of evidence” to support its story.

Man’s dignity is to defend the truth

A man’s dignity is to defend the truth. Najib has described himself as a brave Bugis warrior who would not abandon the ship.

Therefore, when the Bugis warrior is challenged, there is no reason not to put on a brave fight, even to defend himself to the point of death.

But, why did Najib not defend his case against WSJ? Never mind about winning or losing the case in court, but I can only speculate that there is this major fear that more evidence will be exposed in court if the case proceeded.

This would probably be even more damaging to Najib’s own reputation. We will never know what this “load of evidence” can do to Najib’s own credibility as the leader of this country until WSJ has a chance to expose it in court.

Even if Najib won the case, and WSJ has to pay huge sums in historically one of the biggest defamation cases, the world would have witnessed what could be one of the biggest scandals in Malaysia.

Under the present circumstances, this is not impossible, but it would mean exposing our judiciary system to scrutiny by the rest of the world. Of course, the ruling can go either way whether it is in a Malaysian court or a court in the United States, but, what if the case is brought against WSJ in a court in the US and the ruling turns out against Najib and 1MDB?

What if Najib and 1MDB lost?

In short, what if Najib and 1MDB lost the case?

What would be their fate? Where will they hide their faces? Would it mean that the other investigative bodies currently investigating into possible money-laundering use the case to their own advantage?

While the appeal process can take several years, the damage would have been done should Najib and 1DMB lose the case to WSJ, and this is not what anyone in their position would like to see happening.

Under such circumstances, I rest my case. I do not think that Najib, 1MDB or anyone for the matter would take such great risks to drag the WSJ team to court. – Malaysiakini


STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.

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