Tommy Thomas denies defaming Najib on the Altantuya murder

(FMT) – Former attorney-general Tommy Thomas, who is facing a suit by Najib Razak, said he did not defame the former prime minister in his memoir “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”.

Thomas, who is back in legal practice, said he was relying on the defence of fair comment, justification and qualified privilege to thwart the former prime minister’s defamation suit.

In his defence filed at the High Court today and sighted by FMT, Thomas said Najib’s action should be dismissed with costs as he was not entitled to any relief from him and memoir publisher GB Gerakbudaya Enterprise Sdn Bhd.

In the suit filed on Oct 27, Najib is seeking unspecified damages and wants words and statements deemed defamatory to be removed from the book.

Najib also wants an apology from Thomas and Gerakbudaya and a permanent injunction that they will not publish anything defamatory about him.

The suit said the alleged defamation was in Chapter 42 under the title “Altantuya”, which ran from pages 400 to 405.

It said a large number of readers would easily identify Najib as being the person written about and criminally linked to the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu.

It said that by clear inference and innuendo, Thomas had conveyed the message that Najib was associated with former policemen Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar, who had been convicted for the murder of the Mongolian woman.

The statement said the book made it look like Najib was unfit to hold public office with such “blood on his hands”.

Thomas said Najib’s denial over Altantuya’s murder had already been made known and available in the public domain for many years.

“Immediately after Azilah’s statutory declaration was published in the media in late 2019, the plaintiff (Najib) performed a ‘sumpah laknat’ in Masjid Kampung Baru denying that he ordered the murder of Altantuya,” he said.

Thomas said Najib’s statement on the murder was made when he was holding high public office and should thus be prevented from filing this suit.

“The plaintiff’s claim is also a violation of the first defendant’s (Thomas) right to freedom of speech and expression provided for in Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution,” the statement added.

Thomas said the contents in Chapter 42 were what Azilah and Sirul said in court documents filed in a Federal Court review application.

Azilah, along with Sirul, issued a statutory declaration (SD) as part of an application in the Federal Court for the review.

In his SD, which was not expunged by the court, Azilah said, among others, that Altantuya’s former lover Abdul Razak Baginda and senior police officer Musa Safri were aware of “instructions” from Najib.

Azilah, in his attached sworn statement, said it was Najib who had given the “shoot to kill” order on Altantuya.

Thomas said that as attorney-general, he had sent a senior deputy public prosecutor to interview Sirul, who is being held at the Villawood immigration centre in Sydney, Australia, and his story matched that of Azilah, currently held at the Kajang prison.

He said that as attorney-general at the material time, he had reviewed the statutory declarations of Azilah and Sirul as part of his duties, and the statements in the memoir were made in good faith.

Thomas said that that since 2007 Najib had a tarnished reputation as he was linked to the murder and gained notoriety over the 1MDB-linked corruption scandals that had been extensively reported locally and overseas.

He said Najib had also been convicted and sentenced on seven counts of corruption in relation to the RM42 million SRC International case.