High Court gives PM's press sec a month to provide info over Mukhriz defamation suit

Shanti Gunaratnam

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court today gave Prime Minister's press secretary Datuk Seri Tengku Sharifuddin Tengku Ahmad one month to provide detailed information in support of his defence statement which was filed in relation to a defamation suit brought by former Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.

In allowing Mukhriz's application for the interrogatories for the detailed information to be included in certain paragraphs in the defence statement of Tengku Sharifuddin, Judicial Commissioner Datuk Roslan Abu Bakar said the information should be submitted in 30-days by way of an affidavit.

The court also ruled that if the detailed information was not submitted within the stipulated time, certain paragraphs in Tengku Sharifuddin's defence statement would be struck off.

Roslan also said the court also accepted the explanation given by the plaintiff for filing the application, after filing the close of the proceedings (filing of reply by Mukhriz).

"There were also merits in the plaintiff's application which was bona fide."

Some of the questions which the court ruled needed detailed information include particulars of the research team which provide details and prepares press statements for the Prime Minister's Office.

The other questions include as to whether the press statements which are prepared by the defendant, are done on the instruction of the Prime Minister, and whether the statement needs prior approval before release, and whether the press statements are prepared solely for the Prime Minister.

Mukhriz, 52, filed the suit on May 3, 2016, alleging that Tengku Sharifuddin had issued four defamatory statements against him on April 15, 20, 23 and 26.

The statements were issued under the headings, ‘Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Statement on Donation Confirmation by Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister’; ‘Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Statement on Former DPM’s Reuters Interview’; ‘Mukhriz Mahathir Statement: Response by Prime Minister’s Press Secretary’; and ‘Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Statement on Tun Mahathir Mohamad and Mukhriz Mahathir’.

Mukhriz alleged that the statements implied that Dr Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had conspired in a malicious campaign to topple a democratically-elected government and that he was involved directly in the plot between Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin.

Tengku Sharifuddin, in his statement of defence, denied that the four statements had disparaged Mukhriz and stressed that the statements were to explain and counter false accusations against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The matter has been fixed for case management on May 4.

Tengku Sharifuddin was represented by Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos while Mukhriz by Haniff Khatri Abdulla.