Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming today said that he would not apologise for his statement against LimKokWing University of Creative Technology (LUCT), where he questioned the institution’s alleged involvement in purportedly corrupt dealings in Sierra Leone.
“I have received a notice of demand, cease and desist and intimation of legal proceedings via the DAP headquarters, on September 4, issued by the lawyers of Dato’ Gail Phung, senior vice President of LUCT,” Ong said in a statement today.
“This notice purports that I have retweeted a defamatory tweet against Dato’ Gail Phung. Among others, the said notice demands that I pay the sum of RM50 million to Dato’ Gail Phung purportedly for compensation and damages,” he said in a statement today.
The former deputy minister of international trade and industry said he would not make a public apology for his tweets and public statements about the university and its management.
“I definitely will not be paying ‘compensation’ of RM50 million to Dato’ Gail Phang purportedly for my public statements and tweets on this matter,” Ong said.
He said he had raised issues that were of public interest, which was consistent with his role as a member of parliament who has spoken and written about matters related to higher education.
“This appears to be a case of intimidation on the part of a senior executive of LUCT against a member of parliament who is raising a legitimate public interest issue,” he said.
On August 6, Ong had retweeted a post from a social media user, @IamTheAdeline, who had shared an article on a probe by Sierra Leone government into LUCT, remarking that “these are very serious accusations against Limkowwing (LUCT)’s activities in Sierra Leone. This is not the first time this issue has been reported”.
“I was not agreeing or disagreeing with the tweet by @IamTheAdeline which I referenced in my tweet. I was referencing the tweet by @IamTheAdeline to give context to the accusations raised so that the relevant authorities in Malaysia can be made aware of this case and conduct the necessary investigations.
“As far as I know, this is the first time that a party in Malaysia has tried to take legal action against a Member of Parliament over a tweet/retweet involving a legitimate public interest issue,” Ong said.
The LUCT and the late Sierra Leone education minister Minkailu Bah were said to be under investigation by the country’s anti-corruption agency for setting up the campus in 2013 without due process and compliance with the law.
This has resulted in high financial obligations for the Sierra Leone government.
However, the investigation ended with the death of Bah on May 18.
Phung said the issue had been sensationalised by the local media, and that LUCT had assisted in the ACC probe.
Meanwhile, Ong stressed that he would continue to highlight issues regarding LUCT, that are deemed public interest and that may affect the reputation of the higher education landscape in Malaysia.
“As a member of parliament, it is well within my right and my duty to raise these issues to the attention of the officials in government, in this case, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Noraini Ahmad (@drnorainiahmad) and her officers at the Ministry of Higher Education (@MOHEOfficial), which I tagged in my tweet,” he said.
Ong has instructed his lawyer Syahredzan Johan to respond to the notice.