(Kuala Lumpur, Tuesday): I am instituting a RM250 million defamation suit against Utusan Malaysia for its news report last Saturday, 13th February 1999, alleging that I am not patriotic.
The Utusan Malaysia report (p. 9) under the headline, "Kit Siang
tidak patriotik - PBPM" reads:
"Timbalan Presiden PBPM, Sheikh Tahir Muhammad berkata, kenyataan Kit Siang yang mendakwa keadaan penjara di Malaysia tidak mencapai tahap minimum Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu (PBB) jelas membuktikan beliau seorang yang tidak bertanggungjawab.
"Beliau berkata, kenyataan itu jelas berunsurkan politik semata-mata, memandangkan Kit Siang telah gagal dalam semua usahanya untuk membebaskan anaknya, Lim Guan Eng daripada hukuman penjara.
"’Jika dakwaan beliau itu benar, mengapa keluarga tahanan lain tidak pernah membangkitkan perkara itu.
"’Mereka sering melawat saudara-mara yang ditahan dan tahu keadaan penjara,’ tegasnya sebagai mengulas kenyataan Kit Siang baru-baru ini.
"Kit Siang dalam kenyataan berkata, keadaan kesihatan anaknya, Guan Eng, semakin terjejas berikutan layanan buruk ketika berada di Penjara Kajang yang disifatkannya jauh daripada mencapai tahap minimum seperti ditetapkan oleh PBB.
"Sheikh Tahir berkata, kerajaan perlu mengkaji kenyataan Kit Siang itu dan mengambil tindakan sewajarnya jika dakwaan tersebut ternyata tidak benar.
"Sehubungan itu, beliau turut meminta Kit Siang mengemukakan permohonan untuk melakukan lawatan khas ke penjara seluruh negara bagi meninjau sendiri keadaan di dalam penjara di negara ini."
Utusan Malaysia must take full responsibility for this report and in particular the heading "Kit Siang tidak patriotik". If describing the Parliamentary Opposition Leader and a seven-term Member of Parliament as unpatriotic is not defamatory, then I do not know what is defamatory.
I am instituting the RM250 million defamation suit against Utusan
Malaysia for four reasons:
In deciding on the RM250 million defamation suit against Utusan Malaysia, my lawyers and I have taken into account two recent defamation suits, one by the son of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Mirzan Mahathir, who sued the printers of Asian Wall Street Journal (AWSJ) - Star Papyrus, a subsidiary of Star Publications - for RM150 million for an article entitled Mahathir's Eldest Son Limits Ambitions written by Mr Bruce Knecht and the other by Berjaya Group chairman and chief executive Tan Sri Vincent Tan who sued Star Papyrus for RM 200 million for another AWSJ article entitled Malaysia Props Up Crony Capitalists written by local academic Professor K.S. Jomo.
My lawyers have prepared another RM250 million defamation suit against the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir for his most defamatory statements against me when he said that I had made "baseless" allegations about the prison conditions of DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, to gain "political mileage and publicity by tarnishing the image of the government" and that my allegations were "merely lies which were unfair to the prison officers who were serving with much dedication".
Abdul Kadir even made the preposterous allegation that I was trying to "thwart the Government's efforts to bring investors back" and "scare away tourists".
I have however instructed my lawyers to hold on to the RM250 million defamation suit against Abdul Kadir as I want to give the new Deputy Home Minister a chance to clarify that he was misled with facts and data about prison conditions and life which made him say things which he should have never said but for which he must bear full personal responsibility - such as calling me a "liar".
I will instruct my lawyers to file the mega defamation suit against Abdul Kadir if he is not prepared to retract all the baseless allegations he had made against me and admit that the prison conditions in Malaysia fail to comply with minimum international standards.
I have today given instructions to my lawyers to institute another two RM250 million defamation suits, one against the New Straits Times and another against the New Sunday Times, for publishing most defamatory cartoons against me, the former on 19th February 1999 and the latter on 21st February 1999.
DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka,Lim Guan Eng, had on 20th February, 1999, through his wife, Betty Chew, sent a letter of protest to the New Straits Times (NST) against the cartoon which appeared last Friday, but his letter was completely blacked out by the NST.
In his letter, Guan Eng expressed his "anger" at the NST political cartoon by M.Desa. In that cartoon, a prison was drawn with McDonalds fast food joint, gymnasium, circus, dangdut bar, Astro TV, Hard Rock Café and even a girlie massage parlour located inside its walls and barbed fencing.
In his letter to the NST, Guan Eng said:
"M.Desa's cartoons may be dismissed as a reflection of his prurient and juvenile nature. But I cannot keep silent when he is so dismissive of prisoners' right to hygienic water and food as well as living conditions not threatening to health.
"Does M.Desa know that there were no kettle available for prisoners to boil water when I first entered Kajang Prison? Water was then given to prisoners from a rusty tin container or prisoners told to drink water straight from the tap.
"Or that the price of this newspaper New Straits Times costs more than our Sunday prison rations of rice and a hard-boiled egg. Or that family visits are conducted with a separating glass wall and that I am not allowed to hug my young children even once during Chinese New Year.
"For M.Desa to equate Kit Siang's call for necessary prison reforms with girlie massage parlour is indeed a cruel and indecent joke at our expense. When has calling for clean water, food, healthy living conditions and sufficient medical treatment is tantamount to asking for a Las Vegas-type simulacra?
"M.Desa's blind devotion to the BN government is unquestioned. Whilst I do not dispute M.Desa's right to political partisanship evident in all his cartoon since they first appeared, his unfeeling insensitively is distasteful.
"Perhaps M.Desa will only understand what lack of minimal international standards in the treatment of prisoners means should he have the misfortune of becoming a prisoner. However, despite M.Desa's objectionable views, I would not wish for such a fate to befall him. For then, he would realize the full import of the word ‘dehumanising’."
The M.Desa cartoon in the NST in 19th Feb. 1999 was already most defamatory, but the M.Desa cartoon in the New Sunday Times of 21st February 1999 was even more defamatory a thousand-fold.