Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the statements he made at the PKR Special National Congress last March about Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s family’s wealth are not defamatory as they are “true in substance or in fact”.

Anwar said this in his statement of defence in the RM150 million defamation lawsuit brought against him by Dr Mahathir, adding that the nonagenarian’s claim against him is defective. The statement was filed by the legal firm Messrs Thomas Philip on Wednesday night.

Anwar said his statements against Dr Mahathir at the PKR event was in response to the former prime minister’s attacks on the present administration and his allegation that the Malays in the country are weak and are losing their political power.

Anwar said Dr Mahathir had made the allegation, when commenting on a proposed Malay Proclamation rally, due to the fact that the former prime minister had lost in the 15th general election with his Parti Pejuang Tanah Air failing to win even a single seat.

“The plaintiff (Dr Mahathir) is only raising issues regarding the plight of the Malays in a desperate attempt and at any cost, to regain his political credibility and relevance,” the prime minister said in his 164-page defence.

He added that Dr Mahathir is now raising such issues and sentiments to undermine the present federal government in light of the upcoming state elections.

“The plaintiff is now raising these issues to undermine the defendant (Anwar) and the present federal government after the spectacular loss that he and his party suffered during the last election.”

Anwar further alleged that the Malay community’s weakness at present is largely due to Dr Mahathir’s actions when helming the country for more than 22 years.

Family dealings

Citing the defence of justification with regards to purported statements about Dr Mahathir’s family amassing wealth, Anwar referred to the bailing out of Konsortium Perkapalan Bhd (KPB) in 1997 by Petronas and Malaysia International Shipping Corporation (MISC) as an example. KPB, now known as Pos Logistics Bhd, is owned by Dr Mahathir’s son Mirzan Mahathir.

Anwar also cited the awarding of Telekom Malaysia Bhd’s contract to Opcom Cables Sdn Bhd, a company where Mirzan, and two other sons of the former prime minister — Tan Sri Mokhzani Mahathir and Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir — are directors as another example. He also highlighted Mokhzani’s setting-up of Kencana Capital Sdn Bhd in 2001 (which later became Kencana Petroleum Bhd and is now known as SE Petroleum Bhd) and the company being awarded a major fabrication licence by Petronas in 2002, despite being newly incorporated.

He said all this happened when Dr Mahathir was the prime minister and also the finance minister, after Anwar had earlier refused to bail out KPB.

Anwar also referred to the directive — when he was the then deputy prime minister and finance minister — for the treasury to inject RM2 billion as tabled in Parliament in December 1996 into the troubled Perwaja Group which was mismanaged by its managing director Tan Sri Eric Chia, as another example of Dr Mahathir’s cronies benefiting from the premiership.

KPB rescue

Anwar, in detailing the KPB bailout, said the company was owned by Mirzan who was the majority shareholder and director of KPB at the material time. He said Dr Mahathir had approached him (Anwar) and directed him to devise a special scheme for the purpose of disbursing approximately RM2 billon from the treasury to assist KPB and Mirzan.

“I urged him to reconsider the scheme mentioned as it would be difficult to rationalise and justify the utilisation of treasury funds for KPB. I also stated that if he wished to proceed with the proposed disbursement, the treasury would have to present a supplementary budget to Parliament for approval.”

Anwar alleged that Dr Mahathir was upset with the response and Dr Mahathir later informed Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican, the then president and CEO of Petronas, to bail out KPB to which Anwar, who was then the deputy prime minister and finance minister, objected.

“On March 6, 1998, Petronas announced its plan to acquire KPB’s shipping assets. This was done pursuant to instructions given by Dr Mahathir where Petronas was under his control and direction, pursuant to Section 3 of the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA) as he was the PM.

“As the then PM of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir also had the power to issue any direction as he deemed fit to Petronas. On the same day, MISC entered into two Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with Petronas and KPB,” he said, adding the ultimate objective of the MoUs was to facilitate KPB’s assets acquisition by way of cash payments to KPB.”

Anwar said the MISC-KPB transactions took place under Dr Mahathir’s purview and instructions when he was both the PM and Finance minister, and as a result KPB received a total sum of US$220 million (RM836 million) from MISC and/or Petronas for the financial year-ending Dec 31, 1998.

“As a result, KPB’s loss of RM189.788 million for financial year ending Dec 31, 1997, was immediately wiped out and KPB subsequently reported profits of RM126.53 million for the financial year ending Dec 31, 1998 and having a net current liability of RM423.94 million for the financial year ending Dec 31, 1997, it recorded net current assets of RM73.728 million for Dec 31, 1998,” he claimed.

Opcom deal

Anwar claimed that Opcom, a company in the business of manufacturing fibre-optic cables, systems and accessories as well as engineering services, had seen Telekom Malaysia issuing a letter to the Ministry of Finance to request direct negotiations with Opcom for the supply of optic cable worth RM214.2 million on Sept 15, 2003 when Dr Mahathir was the prime minister and finance minister.

He further alleged that on May 14, 2018, (during Dr Mahathir’s second stint as prime minister) Opcom was awarded a contract worth RM11.157 million by Telekom for the “Rakan Unifi Contract”.

Anwar said Dr Mahathir’s children Mirzan, Mokhzani and Mukhriz along with Mukhriz’s wife Tok Puan Norzieta Zakaria were former directors of Opcom.

“The plaintiff (Dr Mahathir) was sworn in as the seventh PM, on May 5, 2018. The said contract was also awarded before the formation of a new cabinet and without their approval. In this regard, the cabinet ministers for that period were only sworn in on July 2, 2018,” Anwar added.

Kencana Petroleum

On Kencana Petroleum, Anwar said the company was set up in 2001, and within the same year it acquired Hin Loong Engineering Sdn Bhd (HL Engineering) which has a fabrication plant in Lumut, Perak.

In 2002, he said Petronas awarded a major fabrication (offshore structure) licence to Kencana Petroleum despite the fact that it was newly incorporated. He said Dr mahathir, who was at that time the prime minister and finance minister, used Section 3 of the PDA as Petronas was an entity under the Malaysian government.

Anwar further claimed that statements similar to his impugned statements in the lawsuit had been publicly uttered against Dr Mahathir for years by various publications and also by prominent members of society

“Although similar statements and/or words have been made against Dr Mahathir in the past, he did not take any legal action against the makers and/or publishers of those words and/or statements” Anwar said, adding the present action is aimed at undermining his credibility as the current prime minister as well as the federal government.

“This is further evidenced by the certificate of urgency dated May 3, 2023 filed by him which states the present action must be disposed of as soon as possible in view of the upcoming state elections,” he said.

Anwar also pleaded fair comment and justification in his defence to make the statements at the party congress as they were matters of public interest.

He alleged that the preferential treatment given by Dr Mahathir to certain local companies and or business personalities when he was the prime minister and finance minister, was to financially benefit and enrich his sons and family members or cronies.

Anwar further claimed the actual cause of the downturn in Malaysia’s economy and leakage in public funds was Dr Mahathir’s tenure as the fourth prime minister.

Anwar also cited the defence of qualified privilege as he has the legal and moral duty to publish the impugned statements and also have a legal duty to respond to Dr Mahathir’s racial and religious attack to protect his administration.

He further alleged that Dr Mahathir’s reputation itself had been hurt due to numerous corruption and financial scandals in the past, that included the Maminco Tin Scandal, the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance Ltd and the foreign exchange scandal of the 1990s along with efforts to curb political dissent, and attacks on the Malaysian judiciary and rule of law.

Source : The Edge

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