Charles Santiago apologises to Zakir Naik for defamatory statements

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Klang MP Charles Santiago has apologised to preacher Dr Zakir Naik for defaming the latter in a 'ceramah' four years ago.

Santiago made the apology here on Monday after the High Court here found that he had defamed the preacher in his statement entitled 'Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)' at a public talk on Nov 25, 2019.

Justice Akhtar Tahir ruled in his decision that the second statement made by Santiago in the talk was a two-pronged statement, despite it being attributed to Zakir.

"One was directed towards the Malaysian police and the Government, and at the other directed towards the plaintiff.

"The implication that can be derived from the remarks against the plaintiff is that he had an influence over the police and the Government in the arrest of the two DAP members," he said.

The court said it found the remarks to be an expression of Santiago’s opinion but it was speculative in nature and defamatory against Dr Zakir.

Despite the defamatory nature, the judge said the remarks had enhanced the reputation of the plaintiff (Dr Zakir) as being someone who was influential in Malaysia instead of tarnishing him and due to this, he was not entitled to damages.

"The court therefore rules that the plaintiff is not entitled to any damages but as the second statement is defamatory, the court directs the defendant to apologise publicly for the remarks made linking the plaintiff to the arrest of the two DAP members," Justice Akhtar said here in open court on Monday (May 22).

After the decision was read out, the judge then called upon Dr Zakir and Santiago to step forward to the front and instructed the politician to apologise.

Santiago then made his apology and Justice Akhtar asked Dr Zakir whether he accepted the apology, to which Dr Zakir answered: "yes".

On another impugned statement by Santiago through a press statement entitled "Wednesday Cabinet meeting Must Discuss Zakir Naik's meddling into Politics" made on Aug 13, 2019, the court found that the statement was a fair comment and not defamatory.

The statement was made in response to Dr Zakir's talk in Kelantan on Aug 8, 2019, entitled "The misconception of Islam by the non-Muslims".

"The court deduced by reading the impugned press statement of the defendant that the defendant's concern was that the plaintiff's talk in Kelantan had potential to cause racial riots as well as stir bitterness amongst Malaysians using the religious platform," Justice Akhtar said.

The court had first analysed the event in Kelantan which sparked the defendant's press statement and found "The misconception of Islam by the non-Muslims" to be an inappropriate topic in the Malaysian context as there was nothing to suggest there was a widespread misconception of Islam by the non-Muslims in Malaysia.

"The court feels that this is an unnecessary topic to be debated in Malaysia. The court agrees with the defendant that the talk could stir religious sentiments and cause tensions amongst the various religious faiths in Malaysia."

Justice Akhtar also said that the court agreed with the defendant's press statement that the remarks by Dr Zakir could cause a threat to multiracial Malaysia.

"In fact, the court noted that the plaintiff’s remarks had attracted a rebuke from the Malaysian Prime Minister and many other politicians.

"It is therefore the court’s decision in this case that the defendant’s first statement is not defamatory and in fact a statement which is justified and a fair statement," the judge said.

Dr Zakir first filed the defamation lawsuit in December 2019, claiming that Santiago had said the arrest of 12 individuals under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) over alleged links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was because of their criticism of Dr Zakir.

He claimed Santiago’s remarks, which were published in a news report titled "Criticism of Zakir Naik may have led to LTTE arrests, says MP," published by FMT on Nov 26, 2019, were motivated by malice and hatred.

He also claimed Santiago had defamed him through a media statement issued on Aug 13, 2019.

The controversial Muslim preacher said Santiago’s remarks had injured his reputation and caused him to suffer humiliation and ridicule.

Santiago’s defence was that the remarks were fair comment on a matter of public interest and were made without malice.

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Dr Zakir Naik , Charles Santiago , Defamation , Courts ,


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