The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has notched up another precedent, sending lawyers’ letter which is ambivalent whether it paves the way for the Prime Minister to sue or not to sue Wall Street Journal (WSJ) for publication of report that Malaysian government investigators have found almost US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) of 1MDB’s funds deposited into Najib’s personal accounts at AmBank.
According to Malaysiakini, Najib’s lawyers, the legal firm Hafarizam Wan & Aisha Mubarak has asked Dow Jones, the owner of WSJ, to respond with 14 days “whether it is your position, as taken in the articles, that our client misappropriated nearly US$700 million from 1MDB”.
Najib’s lawyers’ letter to Dow Jones said: “You will no doubt appreciate the seriousness of the allegation made against our client in the said articles and confirmation is sought to enable us to advise our client the appropriate legal recourse he can take to seek redress in relation to the publication of these articles.”
If UMNO Supreme Council member and Deputy Agriculture Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman is right that WSJ never implicated Najib, but only 1MDB, such a letter should not have been sent.
However, this letter was not what Malaysians had been led to expect with the various threats of legal action against WSJ for its report and allegation, especially as conspicuously absent is any forthright demand to WSJ to apologise for the defamation of the Prime Minister and withdrawal of WSJ report concerned with the undertaking not to repeat such defamation.
I do not know what is going to be WSJ response to the letter by Najib’s lawyers, but under these circumstances, nobody can rule out a scenario where the WSJ report remains while no legal action is instituted by Najib’s lawyers against WSJ.
From the letter from Najib’s lawyers, there appears to be room for dispute as to whether the WSJ report as it stands is defamatory of Najib or not.
So where does the government and the nation go from here?
Najib had accused former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir for “masterminding” the latest allegation against him and working “hand in glove” with foreigners as a continuation of the political sabotage against his Prime Ministership.
Is Najib instead going to institute legal action against Mahathir for the falsehoods and lies being levelled against the Prime Minister?
Mahathir had retorted in his blog that it was Najib and not him who has embarrassed the nation with the 1MDB imbroglio.
“In other nations, a scandal like this involving a leader would have seen him resign and apologising.
“But in Malaysia, there are those who defend the leader without reason, just to safeguard their positions.
“It is Najib who embarrassed the nation with his 1MDB. Before this, the country has never been ridiculed with allegations that have gone unanswered.”
While former Attorney-Gneeral Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman claims that there is no legal requirement to compel the Prime Minister to vacate his position or go on leave while investigations on the WSJ report and allegation are ongoing, it is crystal clear that Malaysia cannot afford to have a Prime Minister who has been stripped of all credibility, moral authority and legitimacy as the head of government.
For the good of the country, Malaysia must move forward and cannot continue even for another day in the state of government morass and national paralysis induced by the 1MDB scandal and crisis.