KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 — The Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) alleged the previous delay in gratuity payments to some army retirees was not related to the fund’s financial position or a contract with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the High Court was told today.
Datuk Zakaria Sharif, LTAT’s deputy chief executive, had in his witness statement said PKR MP Rafizi Ramli had indirectly given the impression that LTAT’s financial position and cash flow was not stable, purportedly due to 1MDB’s alleged failure to pay LTAT subsidiary Perbadanan Perwira Harta Malaysia (PPHM).
“It’s as if the defendant (Rafizi) wishes to give an impression that the plaintiff (LTAT) does not have enough funds to pay the retired army personnel’s gratuity, although the defendant’s statements are not true at all,” he said in his witness statement that was submitted in court today.
Zakaria is the first witness for LTAT in its defamation lawsuit against Rafizi over the latter’s 2016 remarks on the days of March 21, 24 and 28 on alleged late gratuity payments by LTAT.
In the same witness statement, Zakaria said LTAT had conducted checks on the 110 names that Rafizi submitted on March 31, 2016 as the list of those that had yet to receive payments then.
Zakaria said LTAT had then issued a press statement on April 4, 2016, clarifying that 1MDB had paid PPHM and that 69 of the 110 individuals were paid within 24 hours after full documentation was received between March 16, 2016 to April 4, 2016.
One was paid in 2007 while others were not due to issues such as applications that had yet to be submitted or were just received.
He said that all 110 retired army personnel were fully paid as of April 15, 2016, adding:
“I stress that there were no late payments to the army contributors. The plaintiff’s (LTAT) financial position or contract together with 1MDB is not the cause of late payment to contributors as per the libel by the defendant (Rafizi).”
“The plaintiff has no financial problems to pay the gratuity of the retired army personnel and the plaintiff’s financial position is also strong. Therefore I stress that the defendant’s accusation is defamatory and untrue,” he said.
When cross-examined by Rafizi’s lawyer Azhar Arman Ali, Zakaria disagreed that LTAT had a “social obligation” — under the Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera Act that it was formed — to former armed forces personnel.
Zakaria also confirmed that LTAT had not contacted news portal Malaysiakini or its reporter, adding that LTAT did not send a legal notice or sue Malaysiakini over one of its news reports on Rafizi as it believed the remarks were made by Rafizi.
Lawyer Saiful Izham Ramli also represented Rafizi today.
Lawyer Izzat Othman who represented LTAT said that his client may call another three witnesses to testify on behalf of the fund.
Hearing before Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim resumes on April 27 and 28, with cross-examination of Zakaria expected to resume then.