Sultanah of Terengganu case against Clare Brown fixed for March 2021

(FMT) – The Court of Appeal has fixed March 24 to hear an appeal by Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown and two others against exempting Terengganu Sultanah Nur Zahirah from giving evidence to prove her defamation suit.

Lawyer Americk Sidhu, who represented the three defendants, said a remote hearing was fixed for today to dispose of the appeal.

“We were ready, with senior counsel Gopal Sri Ram, to make submissions before a panel of three judges,” he told FMT, adding that the parties had filed their written submissions earlier.

However, for unknown reasons, the court vacated the hearing and carried out case management instead before deputy registrar Mohd Khairi Haron, who rescheduled the hearing to next year.

Had the appeal by the trio been dismissed, the hearing before High Court judge Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim would have been scheduled to proceed for four days from Dec 7.

Last December, Zaidi said that in the face of the suit, Rewcastle-Brown, publisher Gerakbudaya Enterprise, publisher Chong Ton Sin and printer Vinlin Press Sdn Bhd had defamed the sultanah.

The judge said that in the minds of any reasonable person, an impugned passage in the book “The Sarawak Report – The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose” had cast aspersions on the plaintiff.

He said he concurred with the sultanah’s lawyer, Mohd Haaziq Pillay Abdullah, that the defendants need not bring a language expert to prove the passage in the book was not defamatory.

The judge said the “ball has now been shifted to the defendants” and they could take the stand to rely on the defence available in defamation cases or take a position of no case to answer.

The defendants had cited the defence of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege.

Sultanah Nur Zahirah filed the application for her suit to be decided by summary judgment under Order 14A of the Rules of Court 2012.

She alleged that Rewcastle-Brown had made a disparaging statement about her in the book, and claimed that it could be taken to mean she was involved in corrupt practices.

The plaintiff said the defamatory statement could also infer that she had interfered in Terengganu’s administration besides using her status to influence the establishment of Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), which later became 1MDB.

She alleged the statement also construed her as having helped Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, to become the adviser of TIA.

She is claiming general damages of RM100 million from each defendant.