Sarawak Report editor admits passage in book was wrong, apologises

KUALA LUMPUR: The Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown has admitted that she made a mistake when writing a passage that led to a suit against her by the Sultanah of Terengganu, Sultanah Nur Zahirah.

She said the passage in her book The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé was an honest mistake on her part.

“For this honest mistake, I have apologised. But I do not accept the plaintiff’s (Sultanah Nur Zahirah) strained misinterpretation of the passage,” she told the High Court here.

Sultanah Nur Zahirah filed the suit on Nov 21, 2018, claiming that the said statement, among others, meant that she was involved in corruption and interfering in the administration of the Terengganu government and that she had helped fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, become a TIA adviser.

On her reference to the plaintiff as a “key player in Terengganu”, the editor said this was meant for the Sultan’s sister, who had not taken umbrage with the second print of the book.

“I certainly did not mean by ‘key player’ that she interfered with matters of state or was running the state of Terengganu. The words ‘key player’ are innocuous. I just meant someone of importance,” she was quoted as saying by Bernama.

She also said she wrote the book because it was important that the public knew, in a comprehensive manner, of how the large-scale sacking of the sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB, came to pass.

The 63-year-old, who testified via video-conferencing from London, said the passage was from her recollection of reading a news report in 2010 where Jho Low mentioned how he came to know the Sultan of Terengganu.

“It was an honest mistake on my part which I believed to be true when I wrote it. There was no malice. I do not know the plaintiff (Sultanah Nur Zahirah) personally and my work has not shown any improprieties on her part. I have no reason to defame her and I certainly did not intend for the passage to injure her reputation or degrade her.

“The book, spanning more than 500 pages, was bound to contain one or two inaccuracies.”

Earlier, former Terengganu mentri besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said told the court that he had never received instructions or orders from the Sultanah to appoint Low in TIA.

Ahmad, 67, who was mentri besar from 2008 to 2014, said he had also never received any advice or views on TIA from the Sultanah.

When explaining her knowledge of Low and the founding of TIA, Rewcastle-Brown said that from her research, she knew he had links to the royal family of Terengganu, which led to the founding of TIA that was later renamed to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

“This again is public knowledge. Prior to the 1MDB scandal becoming public in 2015, Jho Low himself had made it publicly known of his involvement in the founding of TIA since 2010, through the Sultan of Terengganu.”

She further said it was undisputed public knowledge that Low had links to, and was friendly with, members of the Terengganu royal family back in 2009.

He was introduced to the Sultan of Terengganu through its members, a fact that Low himself had publicly admitted, she said.

“The passage provided an important historical narrative of how 1MDB came to be, and the personalities involved, before it was controlled by then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak,” Rewcastle-Brown said.

“It was also important to know how Jho Low first became involved in TIA in 2009 and obtained the role of special adviser to the Sultan of Terengganu. He did so by knowing members of the Terengganu royal family.”

The trial, which started on Monday, ended yesterday after five witnesses, comprising three plaintiff witnesses and two defendants, testified. The two other defendants in the suit are Gerakbudaya Enterprise publisher Chong Ton Sin and printer Vinlin Press Sdn Bhd.

High Court Judicial Commissioner (JC) Dr John Lee Kien How @ Mohd Johan Lee fixed Sept 20 to hear oral submissions from both parties.

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