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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today issued a legal letter to Umno supreme council member Datuk Mohd Puad Zarkashi, demanding that the latter apologise and pay RM10 million as compensation for allegedly defaming him through a Facebook post last week.
In the letter of demand issued by Muhyiddin’s lawyers Rosli Dahlan Saravana Partnership and sighted by Malay Mail, the prime minister also demanded that Puad remove a February 9 posting titled “Kuarantin Pun Ada Dua Darjat” from his Facebook page “DrPuad Zarkashi”.
The other demands listed in the legal letter were for Puad to agree to provide an unequivocal public apology to be published immediately and prominently on his Facebook page and for all news portals and social media that had also published the allegedly defamatory Facebook post to also publish the apology, and to provide written undertakings to stop and not repeat the publishing of similar or identical statements to those in the Facebook post.
Muhyiddin’s lawyers also demanded that Puad “agree to pay compensation to our client a sum of RM10 million”.
In the letter, Muhyiddin’s lawyers said that they had instructions to proceed with legal action against Puad to seek court orders such as an injunction and compensation, if Puad fails to comply with the demands within seven days from the letter’s February 16 date.
In the same letter, Muhyiddin’s lawyers also highlighted to Puad that his statements in the Facebook post amounted to the crime of “criminal defamation” under the Penal Code, which is punishable by jail time, or a fine, or both.
“Take notice also that your statements in the impugned post which are untrue, defamatory and malicious which have harmed our client’s reputation constitute an offence of criminal defamation under Section 500 of the Penal Code, that upon conviction may be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both,” the letter said.
The letter indicated that Muhyiddin may take further action against Puad.
Malay Mail understands that Muhyiddin’s law firm served Puad the letter of demand via email and by hand today.
In the letter of demand, Muhyiddin’s lawyers claimed that Puad’s February 9 post contained unsubstantiated, untrue and mischievous statements that were defamatory against the prime minister.
According to the legal letter, Puad’s Facebook statements inferred that the prime minister and his entourage had allegedly refused to be quarantined for 10 days upon their return from an official trip to Jakarta, which purportedly prompted a new order from the health minister that allowed Cabinet members to be quarantined for only three days instead.
The lawyers also said Puad’s Facebook post could be taken to mean that Cabinet members, including Muhyiddin, were given unjustified “preferential treatment” compared to other people under the movement control order (MCO) and the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342).
They said Puad inferred that Muhyiddin had abused his power as prime minister to obtain preferential treatment and to cause ministers to be exempt from Act 342 and the MCO.
The lawyers categorically denied the statements against Muhyiddin, describing them as baseless and malicious.
They added that Puad in his Facebook post had the potential to tarnish Muhyiddin’s reputation and erode public confidence in the PM.
The lawyers claimed that Puad had deliberately failed to verify the information before publishing the Facebook post, which they said showed that the remarks were made in bad faith and was allegedly done for “cheap publicity and political mileage”.
The lawyers said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a statement on February 9 denying the remarks made in Puad’s Facebook post and had clarified that Muhyiddin was issued an order and underwent home quarantine after returning from Jakarta on February 5 besides being fitted with a surveillance band.
The lawyers said the PMO requested a public apology for his Facebook post from Puad on February 9, but that the Umno politician has yet to do so till today.
They pointed out that Puad’s Facebook remarks had also been reported by several news organisations.
Puad declined to comment for the moment when contacted by Malay Mail this evening.