Terengganu Sultanah will have to testify to prove RM300m defamation suit against Sarawak Report editor, lawyer says

Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle Brown speaks to reporters before leaving the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 3, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle Brown speaks to reporters before leaving the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 3, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 25 — Terengganu Sultanah Nur Zahirah will have to personally attend court proceedings and testify to prove her RM300 million defamation lawsuit against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown and two others over a book on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal following the Court of Appeal’s decision yesterday.

Lawyer for the sultanah, Datuk Mohd Haaziq Pillay, confirmed that his client would have to take the witness stand as it currently stands if she decides not to appeal against the Court of Appeal decision.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal reversed a 2019 decision by the High Court that exempted the sultanah from testifying in the defamation lawsuit.

Mohd Haaziq said he has yet to receive his client’s instructions.

However, he does not foresee the case going to the Federal Court at this point.

“I need to wait for my client’s instructions... Nevertheless, the way the thing is going, we would suggest to proceed with the matter to save time,” he told Malay Mail when contacted today.

He added that he would not be suggesting an appeal to the Federal Court as leave for appeal is required.

For those who seek to appeal a decision by the Court of Appeal, they would have to go through the process of applying first for leave of appeal from the Federal Court.

The Federal Court would then decide whether to grant leave and allow the appeal to be heard, and would then hear and decide on the appeal if leave is granted.

When asked if the Terengganu Sultanah would be testifying in this defamation lawsuit, Mohd Haaziq said this would be required based on the current status without an appeal to the Federal Court.

“Of course that’s what she has to do in order to prove the case. I think right now, without instruction, normally she would have to testify to prove her case,” he said.

“That’s how it stands at the moment,” he later added.

Testifying at the defamation lawsuit would mean that the Terengganu Sultanah would be subject to cross-examination or being quizzed by the lawyers of those she is suing.

Tomorrow, case management for the actual defamation lawsuit is scheduled to be conducted through video-conferencing before the High Court in Kuala Lumpur’s judicial commissioner John Lee Kien How @ Mohd Johan Lee.

Mohd Haaziq said he would be informing the High Court tomorrow of matters regarding the case.

The defamation lawsuit is scheduled to be heard by the High Court on October 11 to October 14.

The Terengganu Sultanah had on November 21, 2018 filed the defamation lawsuit in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur against Rewcastle-Brown, the latter’s book publisher Gerakbudaya Enterprise and printer, Vinlin Press Sdn Bhd over contents in Rewcastle-Brown’s book The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé.

Suing over the contents in a paragraph of page three of the book, the Terengganu Sultanah had claimed for RM100 million as compensation from each of the three defendants, and had also sought court orders for the book to be withdrawn and for its printing to cease.

Previously, the High Court had on December 13, 2019 allowed the Terengganu Sultanah’s application to have the defamation lawsuit be decided using points of law and without going through a full trial that would have required her to come to court to testify.

The High Court had in the 2019 decision ruled that the Terengganu Sultanah had proven on first impression or prima facie that she had been defamed, and that the three defendants would have to present their defence in court.

Rewcastle-Brown and the two other defendants then filed an appeal against the High Court’s 2019 decision, which led to the Court of Appeal’s decision yesterday that the Terengganu Sultanah would have to testify in court in the defamation lawsuit.

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