Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is ready to prove in court his allegation that former premier Muhyiddin Yassin did not take steps to complete the RM8.3 billion debt write-off for Felda settlers.
However, the Pagoh MP reiterated that he had as then premier fully implemented the Felda settlers’ debt write-off in 2021, contending that Anwar was deliberately misconstruing and distorting the matter to defame the plaintiff.
In his statement of defence filed on Oct 10 against Muhyiddin’s defamation suit, Anwar cited the defence of justification (ready to prove the claim in court) and fair comment.
The Pakatan Harapan chairperson claimed that when the RM8.3 billion Felda debt write-off was announced, there was insufficient corresponding government funding provided to ensure Felda could meet its financial obligations.
“The RM8.3 billion settlers’ loans remained on the financial books of Felda and were not written off during the administration of the Perikatan Nasional government or BN-PN government but rather on or after the formation of the unity government.
“The defendant had in or around June 2023 executed the funding agreements which enabled the annual provision of about RM1 billion in funding to be channelled to and/or received by Felda for 10 years to, inter alia, enable the repayment of the sukuk/RC (revolving credit facility) by Felda.
“The above funding enabled Felda to meet its financial obligations. This was for the benefit of Felda settlers and had in substance funded or completed the RM8.3 billion debt write-off,” Anwar contended in his statement of the defence sighted by Malaysiakini.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court previously set the defamation suit for eight days of full trial next year, namely from Dec 2 to 5 and Dec 16 to 19.
In a reply filed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Nov 21, Muhyiddin claimed that Anwar had intentionally, recklessly and maliciously published multiple purportedly defamatory and untrue statements despite the defendant having the authority and resources of the prime minister and finance minister.
The plaintiff pointed out that the restructuring of Felda’s debt via the Felda White Paper was presented in 2019 under the administration of then-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad but this was not implemented.
Muhyiddin claimed that he had as then premier successfully implemented the debt write-off in 2021, pointing out that Felda’s debt issue is divided into two – the agency’s debt to external debtors and the settlers’ debt to the agency.
“This means that it is the unity government, now known as the Madani government, which does not want to continue with the write-off, which had been implemented by the plaintiff.
“The defendant’s motive for doing so is clear: it is for the defendant to blame the plaintiff. The defendant subsequently boasted on Felda Settlers’ Day 2023 that it was the defendant who approved and implemented the write-off.
“The defendant’s low-level politics of blaming others and priding himself is very immoral. The defendant deliberately manipulated the facts by confusing the debt issue and the settlers’ issue, which are clearly two different matters,” the Bersatu president claimed.
Muhyiddin alleged that Anwar’s statement of defence had deliberately manipulated the issue of Felda’s RM9.9 billion sukuk and the government’s 10-year grant of RM990 million per annum.
Muhyiddin claimed these measures – passed during Anwar’s administration – only dealt with resolving the debt issue of Felda as a government agency, which is distinct from the debt write-off for the settlers.
“Therefore, the plaintiff contends and will contend that the defence is a sham, completely unfounded and an afterthought that is highly improbable, cannot be believed or accepted and ought to be totally rejected,” Muhyiddin contended.
Anwar is represented by law firm Daniel & Wong, while law firm Rosli Dahlan Saravana Partnership acted for Muhyiddin. – Malaysiakini