Kalimullah takes the stand against Matthias

(New Straits Times) – The former deputy chairman of New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad, Datuk Seri Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan took the stand today in his defamation suit against lawyer Matthias Chang, the former political secretary to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Kalimullah, 53, testified that he filed the suit case against Chang in 2006 as the defendant had allegedly made damaging and baseless statements against him at a press conference which were published in the media.

Chang also filed a counter-claim suit.

Kalimullah, dressed in a light grey suit, told the court yesterday that the article based on Chang’s press conference on June 13 was written and published in the Singapore Straits Times by its then Malaysian correspondent, Leslie Lau.

He also testified that according to the article, Chang had allegedly said that Kalimullah was corrupt, and that he, together with the then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin, were the powers behind the throne.

“He also said that I am a coward and that I had used my position then as deputy chairman of NSTP to demonise Tun Mahathir.

“He said that I am a cobra doing work of our enemies and that I am a traitor and that he will spit on the face of those Malays who showed disrespect to Tun Mahathir,” he said.

Kalimullah, during questioning by his lawyer Prakash Menon, also said that after the article was published, he kept getting calls and enquiries from friends and business associates wondering if there was any truth to the statements against him.

Asked if the article had adversely affected him, Kalimullah said: “It had caused embarrassment to me and my family and injured my reputation, character and my credibility was questioned.”

When asked if he was a Abdullah loyalist, the witness responded: “He has been my friend for more than 20 years and I am loyal to my friends”.

Kalimullah was also asked about alleged corrupt practices involving ECM Libra, for which he is the non-executive chairman.

Prakash: The defendant in his defence had alleged that you aided and abetted corrupt practice in the transaction between ECM Libra and abetted corrupt practice in the transaction between ECM Libra and the once Ministry of Finance-controlled Avenue Capital Resources Bhd. What do you have to say
to that?

Kalimullah: It is absolute nonsense and again a baseless allegation. The defendant obviously does not know the facts and the transaction. The transaction was sanctioned by the Ministry of Finance and all the necessary approvals were given before it was finalised. The government shares in the company were sold to Tan Sri Azman Hashim after which he became the single largest shareholder of ECM Libra. I did not buy the Ministry of Finance-owned shares.

Kalimullah added that the respective regulatory bodies such as the Securities Commission and Bursa Malaysia gave the necessary approvals and that if there were corrupt practices, the approvals would not have been given.

Earlier, Lau, the first witness, who is now the executive editor of online news portal Malaysian Insider, told the court that in the Press conference in June 2006, Chang launched a “blustering and often rambling attack against Khairy and Kalimullah”.

When asked to describe Chang’s manner in the press conference, Lau said: ” He was very dramatic, fiery, loud and shouting challenges, at mainly Khairy and Kalimullah.

“He even had five holy books in front of him including the Bible and the Quran, and he swore that he was speaking the truth for Dr Mahathir.”

When questioned by Chang’s lawyer Datuk R.K. Nathan, Lau, 40, said he could not make a judgement on whether Chang truly believed what he was saying at the press conference.

Nathan: Was Matthias passionate about what he said?
Lau: He was dramatic.
Nathan: Did he believe what he spoke?
Lau: I make no judgement on that.
Nathan: When he spoke loudly and swore on the holy books, it meant he believed his cause?
Lau: I do not know.