KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Razak lacks legal standing when he filed a defamation suit as it was done in his official capacity, the High Court heard today.
Lawyer Ranjit Singh, who is representing former Transport Minister Dr Ling Liong Sik, said a cursory study of Najib’s statement of claim revealed that the plaintiff (Najib) complained that the attack on his reputation was made on the basis of his public office and as chairman of the 1MDB advisory board.
He said this to reporters after submitting before Judge Nor Bee Ariffin, who heard Dr Ling’s application to strike out Najib’s suit in chambers.
Ranjit is relying on a recent Court of Appeal ruling which held that a public figure cannot sue for defamation in an official capacity.
In that case, Justice Idrus Harun had said people should be able to discuss the conduct of the government and public officials without being subject to civil action.
In court papers made available to the media, Ling alleged Najib had misappropriated public funds and placed them in his personal bank accounts to gain wealth and profit.
He claimed Najib had embezzled government funds belonging to 1MDB, a government investment company.
Ling said Najib filed the suit because it affected him (Najib) in his capacity as prime minister and chairman of the company’s advisory board.
The former MCA president, who was once a cabinet colleague of Najib, said the alleged defamatory statement came about as the 1MDB fund was government money sourced from taxpayers.
Further, he said, Najib singled him out to slap a lawsuit while there were other fervent critics who were left unscathed.
“The suit ought to be struck out as it discloses no reasonable cause of action and is an abuse of court process,” Dr Ling said.
Lawyer Hafarizam Mohd Harun said the crux of Najib’s argument was that the attack was on his personal reputation.
“The attorney-general would be representing the prime minister if the subject matter had involved the government and Najib’s action in his public capacity.”
Nor Bee will deliver her ruling in November and the parties will be informed of the date.
Hafarizam said should the court dismiss Ling’s striking-out application, it would proceed to hear Najib’s application to annul the defendant’s (Ling) defence.
On Oct 27 last year, Najib, who is also Umno president, filed the suit over Ling’s allegation that he (Najib) had “taken people’s money” in relation to the RM2.6 billion donation issue.
Ling then filed a counter defamation suit on Dec 14 last year against Najib. – FMT