Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor denied labelling Vincent Tan and the tycoon’s company as corrupt.
In his statement of defence against the duo’s defamation suit, the PAS election director contended his campaign speech emphasised the welfare of the people rather than corporations or the wealthy.
The defendant explained that the reference to “taikun-taikun besar” (big tycoons) such as Tan was merely stating that as Kedah menteri besar he “would prioritise the welfare of people from the lower class (nasib rakyat golongan bawahan) and not merely that of the corporates or rich”.
“The policy mentioned by the defendant was the policy of ‘mesra rakyat’ (one with the people) that has always been extolled by the defendant in his campaign and is also the policy of the Kedah state administration under the defendant’s leadership.
“It did not in any way defame P1 (first plaintiff Tan) as a major corporate (figure),” Sanusi contended in his defence filed at the Shah Alam High Court.
When contacted by Malaysiakini, Sanusi’s counsel Mohd Faizi Che Abu confirmed that the defence was filed two days ago on Saturday (Sept 29).
On Aug 8, Tan – who is Berjaya Group founder – and second plaintiff Berjaya Land Berhad filed the civil action over Sanusi’s speech during the Kedah state election campaign at Dataran Darulaman, Jitra, six days earlier.
Previously, Tan’s lawyers issued a letter of demand seeking the Perikatan Nasional leader’s apology as well as RM200 million compensation over an allegation of impropriety between the tycoon and Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari in relation to the Klang River cleaning project.
According to the statement of defence sighted by Malaysiakini, Sanusi claimed that the reference to Tan and the Selangor River project meant that the defendant did not care about the business conducted by the tycoon there.
In raising the defence of justification (ready to prove the impugned statement in court), Sanusi contended that his speech was merely raising the issue of governance and leakages linked to the project so that the people would be informed about the matter of public interest.
The Jeneri assemblyperson also raised the defence of fair comment (whereby the defendant contended members of the public have the right to know matters of public interest, such as the issue of the Selangor River project) and qualified privilege (a situation where the words are issued by a person who has an interest, or a legal, social, or moral duty to do so).
“As a member of the opposition party, the defendant has the moral and social responsibility to reveal issues of governance and leakages that took place within the administrations held by members of the ruling party, namely Pakatan Harapan and BN.
“In the 15th general election, PN clinched the popular vote of 30.7 percent. This showed that at least 30.7 percent of Malaysians support PN, and agree with the policy offered by PN.
“30.7 percent of Malaysians also have a ‘corresponding interest’ to know about issues of governance and leakages that happened within the administrations of Harapan-BN,” Sanusi contended.
The defendant added that he continues to make revelations on the issue of governance and leakages despite repeated defamatory attacks against himself by members of the ruling coalition.
Through the defamation suit, Tan and Berjaya Land rubbished the allegation linked to the river project, labelling it as baseless and untrue.
The two plaintiffs claimed that Sanusi issued the statement in bad faith and for “pure and pedantic political expediency and inflammatory rhetoric of the defendant”.
Through the civil action, the two plaintiffs are seeking for the defendant to pay unspecified general, aggravated, and exemplary damages.
Tan and Berjaya Land also seek an injunction to restrain Sanusi from further repeating the alleged defamatory statement.
In addition, the plaintiffs seek 5 percent interest on any judgment sum awarded, costs, and any other relief deemed fit by the court.
Tan and Berjaya Land are represented by the law firm Pierre Chuah & Associates. – Malaysiakini