The Pahang government has threatened to file a defamation suit against environmentalist Datin Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil if she fails to apologise publicly for several statements critical of the state’s logging policy, which it deemed to be libellous.
Sabrina was also asked to pay RM1 million in damages for statements the Barisan Nasional administration claimed to have tarnished its reputation.
Several of the incriminating statements, such as accusations that the floods in the state were caused by excessive logging, were said to have been made on social media and eventually given press coverage. The Pahang government argued that the statements were defamatory and had brought disrepute to its integrity.
“It is clear that the defamatory statements (made by Shariffa) are false and unfounded. As a result of those published statements, our client (the Pahang government) has received negative reactions from the public, at the same time ruining the reputation and smearing the good name of our client,” the letter said.
“In addition, the irresponsible behaviour (of Shariffa) with the statements she has caused prejudiced (against) our client whereby the public thinks our client is a government that lies, has no integrity and is irresponsible.”
The letter of demand was handed over by the firm Hidayah Ishak and Partners, which Shariffa posted on her Instagram account this morning.
The president of environmental group Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) has been given two weeks to issue an “unconditional apology”, failing which a defamation suit will be filed against her.
Shariffa was said to have made the defamatory statements in two posts published on her personal Facebook account dated December 29 and 30, 2021, as well as during an interview with Sinar Harian on January 12 this year.
In one of the three statements, the activist suggested that corruption within the state forestry authorities was rife, and that power abuse had enabled companies linked to the “royalties” to log indiscriminately.
Shariffa was said to have blamed the recurrent floods in the state on the logging industry. Pahang is known as one of several flood-prone states.
Responding to the demand, Shariffa told Malaysiakini she was shocked and outraged.
“How can they demand an apology from me merely for raising issues of concern,” she was quoted as saying.
“The environment and indiscriminate logging are issues that plague our country. The state government should in fact be working together with me and other stakeholders or activists in attempting to defend our jungles and natural resources,” she added.
The activist alleged the legal action was an attempt to intimidate her and silence critics.
Her lawyers are expected to respond to the demand soon, Malaysiakini reported.