High Court strikes out suit against Hadi over alleged seditious statement on Christianity

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The judge ruled that the suit was frivolous and an abuse of the court process.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has struck out a lawsuit filed by two Sabahans against PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang over an alleged seditious statement against Christianity.

FMT

High Court judge Justice Akhtar Tahir allowed Abdul Hadi’s application to strike out the originating summons filed by Maklin Masiau and Lawrence Jomiji Kinsil @ Maximilhian, who are the first and second plaintiffs respectively, on grounds that the suit was frivolous and an abuse of the court process.

In his decision, Justice Akhtar said the plaintiffs had failed to produce primary evidence in the form of a Harakah article – where Abdul Hadi was said to have made the statement – and produced secondary evidence, which was a reproduction of the said article from a news portal.

The judge said the court was led with the secondary document, which he described as “fraught with danger”, as it would not be able to determine what was actually said in the original article.

“The reproduction is in English and it is not clear whether the original Harakah article was in English or in another language,” he added.

Justice Akhtar also said the secondary evidence did not show proof that the remarks made by Abdul Hadi were against Christianity.

“(There was) nothing about (the) Christian religion. If the article was an accurate reproduction, it was against Christian missionaries who pay money to convert people.

“That is the gist of the (reproduced) article,” he said.

Akhtar also ordered Maklin and Lawrence to pay RM50,000 each to Hadi in costs.

He said the suit cannot be considered a public interest issue just because a public figure made a statement in 2016 and it was raised a few years later.

The plaintiffs also cannot hide their action as a public interest litigation to avoid paying costs.

“In this case, the court should impose punitive costs because a frivolous case can choke the justice system with unnecessary litigation,” he said.

The judge also remarked that the phrase “see you in court” these days had become a fashion statement and meant to scare persons.

“However, we shouldn’t allow everybody to bring frivolous actions,” he said.

Akhtar said Maklin and Lawrence should be blamed for “seditious tendencies” as they resurrected the matter which took place in 2016.

“We cannot blindly follow English authorities and abandon the written constitution like ours which clearly demarcates the powers between the legislature, executive and the judiciary,” he said.

On Dec 9, Maklin and Lawrence filed the lawsuit over Abdul Hadi’s statement which was published in Harakah on Jan 18,2016.

The duo claimed that the statement was then reported by online news portal Free Malaysia Today on the same day.

In the lawsuit, the duo sought a declaration that Abdul Hadi committed an act contrary to Section 3 of the Sedition Act 1948.

They sought a declaration that the defendant was unfit to hold any position in the government of Malaysia, including any position equivalent to a ministerial post.

On April 20,2020, the Perikatan Nasional government appointed Abdul Hadi as a special envoy to the Middle East with the rank of a minister.

In their statement of claim, they said Abdul Hadi’s statement had cast aspersions on the Christian community in Malaysia.

“It has been more than four years since the defendant issued this…statement, but no prosecution has been brought,” they said.

Meanwhile, Hadi’s lawyer Yusfarizal Yusoff said today decision would mean that an alleged attempt to smear Hadi’s reputation has failed.

He said the legal team welcomes and applauds the High Court’s decision, which he said was “without a doubt well-reasoned”.

“Alhamdulillah, the attempt to smear the reputation of Tuan Guru by portraying himself to be a religious zealot against Christianity, particularly the Christian community in Malaysia has failed,” he told reporters in a brief written comment, referring to Hadi as Tuan Guru.

Yusfarizal also argued that the two Sabahans had filed the lawsuit for political mileage.

“Not only that this suit was filed for political mileage, it has also abused the process of the court by urging the court to disregard the fundamental doctrine of separation of power by demanding the court to impose the wishes of the plaintiffs on the executive’s discretionary powers in executive appointments.

“The plaintiffs had also sought to usurp the powers of the office of the AG in seeking a criminal conviction against Tuan Guru in a civil court which is against the fabric of our democratic ideal,” he argued in his brief comment.

The plaintiffs were represented by lawyers R Kengadharan and Marcus Lee while Abdul Hadi was represented by Yusfariza and Adam Luqman Amdan.