The High Court has fixed March 23 for decision on whether to strike out Najib Razak’s defamation suit against former minister Ling Liong Sik who had claimed the prime minister had “taken people’s money” in relation to the RM2.6 billion donation issue.
Ling’s lawyer Villie Nechi said the date was conveyed by Judge Nor Bee Ariffin during case management today.
“The judge wants to wait for the final outcome of a Federal Court ruling whether a public official can sue anyone for defamation. The apex court decision will bind the High Court,” Villie told reporters.
Lawyer Nor Emelia Mohd Ishzeham appeared for Najib.
Last March, the Court of Appeal had struck out Pahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob’s suit against Utusan Melayu (M) Berhad as he had filed the case in his official capacity.
The court had accepted that the legal principle established in the Derbyshire County vs Times Newspapers Ltd case also applied here.
In that case, decided in 1993, the court had ruled that local authorities could not institute legal action based on criticism.
Adnan’s appeal is scheduled to be heard by the Federal Court in February.
Ling had filed the application to strike out Najib’s suit on Feb 15.
On Oct 27 last year, Najib, who is also Umno president, filed the defamation suit over Ling’s allegation.
Ling then filed a counter defamation suit on Dec 14 last year against Najib.
On Sept 29 (this year), Ling’s lead counsel Ranjit Singh submitted before Nor Bee that Najib lacked legal standing as the suit was done in his official capacity.
He said Najib’s statement of claim revealed that the plaintiff (Najib) complained that the attack on his reputation was made on the basis of his public office and as chairman of the 1MDB advisory board.
Ling alleged Najib had misappropriated public funds and placed them in his personal bank accounts to gain wealth and profit.
He claimed Najib had embezzled government funds belonging to 1MDB, a government investment company.
The former MCA president, who was once a Cabinet colleague of Najib, said the alleged defamatory statement came about as the 1MDB fund was government money sourced from taxpayers.
Lawyer Hafarizam Mohd Harun said the crux of Najib’s argument was that the attack was on his personal reputation.
“The attorney-general would be representing the prime minister if the subject matter had involved the government and Najib’s action in his public capacity.” he had submitted.