KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has no intention to delay filing a defamation suit against the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in Malaysia, says his lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun (pic).
He said he was merely waiting for confirmation from WSJ on whether it was intending to invoke the SPEECH Act in relation to its report about the premier.
“We are inclined to advise the Prime Minister to file the suit in Malaysia,” he said.
The Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act is a law in the United States that makes foreign libel judgments unenforceable in US courts.
Mohd Hafarizam told reporters on Monday that he had informed WSJ in a letter that the cause of action would be defamation.
Najib’s co counsel Datuk Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin said the legal team wanted to know with certainty if WSJ intended to invoke the law as it provides a wide range of immunity.
When asked why Najib did not file the defamation suit in the United States, Firoz said the Prime Minister had a choice on where to file the case.
“If the politician is from Malaysia, why must he sue in a foreign jurisdiction? In that country, you are not as well known as in the country you live in,” said Firoz.
Firoz said it was natural for a prime minister to file a suit a country where he was well known as it involved his reputation.
Mohd Hafarizam added that the case involved an online publication which was accessible to all Internet users.
Mohd Hafarizam Harun had recently said that he had written a letter in mid-September to WSJ’s Singapore-based senior counsel Philip Jeyaretnam to inquire about the matter as the Act provides protection from executing a defamation judgment of a foreign jurisdiction.
Firoz said the legal wanted to avoid any judgement becoming a “paper judgment”.
“It is of no value. Why sue a person if you only get a paper judgment?” said Firoz.
Mohd Hafarizam added that the legal team was not only seeking a judgement but payment of damages over the online publication.
WSJ had published an article quoting an unnamed investigator claiming that almost US$700mil (RM2.6bil) had been channelled into Najib’s personal accounts.
On July 8, Najib’s lawyers sent a letter of clarification to WSJ seeking an explanation over its July 3 article.
The Prime Minister’s Office said the article was political sabotage while 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which had been implicated in the matter, insisted that no funds had been transferred into Najib’s accounts.