Clare Brown admits she made a mistake about Sultanah Terengganu’s role in 1MDB

(FMT) The High Court has set Sept 20 to hear submissions in the RM300 million defamation suit brought by Terengganu’s Sultanah Nur Zahirah against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown and two others.

This came about as the plaintiff and defendants concluded the two-day trial after calling a total of five witnesses.

Judicial commissioner Lee Kien How @ Johan Lee thanked the lawyers for their cooperation in conducting the case online.

The trial began on Monday and was completed today.

Rewcastle-Brown, who gave evidence from London, said it was an honest mistake when she wrote a passage in 2018 from her recollection of reading news reports in 2010 where the fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, stated how he came to know the Terengganu sultan.

“It was an honest mistake on my part which I believed to be true when I wrote it.

“There was no malice in my writing of the passage in the said book. I do not know the plaintiff (Sultanah Nur Zahirah) personally and my work has not shown any improprieties on her part,” she said in her witness statement.

The British journalist added that she had no reason to defame and injure the plaintiff’s reputation.

She was rebutting the suit filed by the sultanah, who also named publisher Gerakbudaya Enterprise and printer Vinlin Press as defendants.

The sultanah said the defendants defamed her in 2018 in a book titled “The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose”.

The impugned statement reads: “Jho (fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low) was also friendly with a key player in Terengganu, the wife of the sultan, whose acquiescence was needed to set up the fund (Terengganu Investment Authority or TIA) and he later cited her support as having been crucial to his obtaining the advisory position.”

The sultanah said the alleged defamatory statement implied that she had interfered in the administration of the state and had used her status to influence the establishment of TIA.

The defendants said they were relying on the defence of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege.

In her book released in September 2018, Rewcastle-Brown had claimed that the sultanah had a hand in setting up TIA and the appointment of Jho Low as its adviser.

However, in the same month, she acknowledged the error and clarified in a reprint of the book that it was the sultan’s sister, and not the sultanah, who was involved.

Despite this, the plaintiff proceeded with the suit as Rewcastle-Brown had failed to issue an express apology.

Lawyers Haaziq Pillay Abdullah and Vishnu Kumar represented the sultanah while Americk Sidhu, Mervyn Lai and How Li Nee appeared for the defendants.