Umno sec-gen: ‘Game over’ for PAS and Sarawak Report, no point pursuing lawsuit

Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at his office in Kuala Lumpur.  — Picture by Hari Anggara
Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at his office in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 — PAS was right to settle its suit against Sarawak Report (SR) editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown out of court as pursuing the matter would only hamper the Islamist party due to the exorbitant costs, Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa has said.

Speaking to the Malay Mail in a recent interview, the Ketereh MP said initiating the lawsuit was a fair move by PAS, but the situation has now reached “game over” for both parties and they should now move forward instead.

“So maybe at that time, that kind of defamation can affect PAS because of the election, and they must take stern action against Brown. But now, it’s ‘game over’,” Annuar said, referring to letting bygones be bygones.

“If you ask me, I won’t want to fly from Kuala Lumpur to London, flying up and down attending court cases. It is not a cheap thing spending hundreds of thousands, maybe millions just to settle a small issue, which is a non-issue to PAS maybe.”

Last Friday, PAS unexpectedly announced that Abdul Hadi had settled his defamation suit against SR and Rewcastle-Brown out of court, with no order to costs and with both bound to confidentiality.

He filed the suit in 2017 over a 2016 article alleging that several PAS leaders received RM90 million in order to covertly support Umno and Barisan Nasional ahead of the 14th general election.

Despite the link to Umno, Annuar said the case would not affect the two rivals-turned-allies cooperation for the Semenyih by-election next month.

“That has not nothing to do with Semenyih. Rewcastle-Brown writing about it is one thing, but Najib’s account has been investigated,” he said, referring to the many investigations against former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

“If Najib has given RM90 million, I’m sure the entire documents are already in the hands of the government now, but there was nothing.

“I think PAS made the right strategy. They want to focus on their business and they want to move forwards. Otherwise, they are being dragged and entangled into an old issue that is not even relevant to their direction now,” he added.

Annuar also dismissed the result of the settlement on Umno’s political prospects, despite the disputed article being allowed to be kept online.

“There are many incorrect things which are allowed to be retained online. So why worry?” he asked.

Annuar further said that the suit was entirely an internal issue within PAS which started even before the 14th general election, and Umno must not be drawn into the quagmire.

PAS has been mocked over the out-of-court settlement but has insisted that it still obtained a moral victory despite SR continuing to carry the offending article on its website.

Deputy minister in charge of law Mohamed Hanipa Maidin pointed out that since Abdul Hadi did not win in his suit, it cannot be ascertained whether the portal’s report that the Islamist party received RM90 million from rival party Umno was slander.

The Sepang MP who has had handled many of PAS’ legal matters when he had still been with the party, also said that PAS is fooling no one with its claim that SR could not prove its allegation.

Former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan had also taken PAS to task, asking the party to properly explain itself to those who contributed to the millions raised towards Abdul Hadi’s legal cost in the matter.

Ambiga had been tangentially linked to the case after Rewcastle-Brown claimed the former to be the source of her information for the RM90 million claim.