Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, who is facing a defamation suit by Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor for comments related to fuel prices made at a forum, defended the remarks saying they were made in jest.
In his defence to the suit, Rafizi said the prime minister and Rosmah could not regard his statement as being defamatory but a good natured ridicule.
"Those particular words uttered must be understood in the right context. It did not amount to defamation," he said in documents sighted by The Malaysian Insider.
In the remarks, Rafizi had said rising fuel prices would allow Rosmah to buy more diamond rings.
Rafizi, who is also PKR secretary-general, is also relying on the defence of fair comment and qualified privilege to have the suit dismissed.
The matter has been fixed for case management before High Court judge Datuk Noraini Abdul Rahman on June 26.
Lawyers who are familiar with handling defamation suits did not discount the possibility of counsel appearing for Najib and Rosmah to strike out Rafizi's defence that what he had said were nothing more than witty remarks.
The suit against Rafizi was filed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court registry on March 16 by Messrs Hafarizam Wan & Aisha Mubarak, the solicitors for Najib and Rosmah.
Also named as defendant in the suit is Chan Chee Kong, the Mediarakyat portal owner.
In their statement of claim, the couple said Rafizi had uttered defamatory remarks relating to rising fuel prices at a forum in Bandar Tun Razak on November 22, 2014.
Najib and Rosmah said Rafizi's speech in a video titled "Kenapa kita pertahan subsidi minyak" (Why we defend petrol subsidies) was recorded by Mediarakyat, and Chan or his assistants uploaded it on YouTube for the world at large to have access.
The video is also on Rafizi's Facebook page.
Najib and Rosmah said Rafizi's speech in the video was clearly intended to defame them.
They said Chan also failed to subscribe to the principles of responsible journalism for his failure to verify the allegation before the video was made available for public consumption.
“The defendants knew that any publication will bring irreparable damage to us and lower our reputation in the minds of the public," the statement of claim said.
Najib and Rosmah are demanding damages deemed fit by the court and a public apology to be published in newspapers and magazines.
They have also demanded that Chan remove the video from YouTube, Mediarakyat and Facebook.
Najib has also filed a similar suit against Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua over comments the lawmaker had allegedly made on the strategic investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Pua has filed his defence, citing, among others, that as lawmaker he had a duty as the people's representative to raise issues of public interest.
The DAP national publicity chief said the public had the right to receive information on issues which affected them and all facts were verified before they came into public domain.
Pua also questioned Najib's standing to file the suit since he was Pekan MP, prime minister and finance minister.
"His conduct should be subjected to criticism when he is holding public positions," Pua added.
Najib has also filed a suit against Harakah managing director Dr Rosli Yaakob and Harakahdaily portal chief editor Taufek Yahya relating to an article written by Rosli on February 19 with the heading “Dana 1MDB biayai syarikat filem Riza Aziz?(Bhg 2)”.
In his statement of claim, Najib alleged that the publication of the article had damaged his reputation and caused him to be condemned by social media and the mass media.
Najib also alleged that Taufek had failed to practise responsible journalism by not verifying the authenticity of the article before publishing it.
Criticism has been mounting against Najib over the Finance Ministry's wholly owned investment vehicle, 1MDB, established in 2009, which has chalked up debts of up to RM42 billion.
Najib has been under pressure from opposition politicians, current and former Umno leaders, including former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and anti-graft bodies, who have demanded a thorough investigation into the fund. Dr Mahathir had also demanded that Najib step down over the 1MDB scandal.
Najib, however, reiterated that he would not step down and would, in fact, fight harder, telling a huge crowd in Sarawak yesterday not to underestimate him. – June 5, 2015.