Santiago’s remarks about Naik caused racial tension, says preacher

A freelance preacher today maintained in court his claim that a press statement by former Klang MP Charles Santiago about a speech Zakir Naik made in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, in 2019 had given rise to racial tension at the time.

(FMT) – Cross-examined by Santiago’s lawyer, Tan Tai Hwa, preacher Hussain Abdullah, 68, disagreed that he had no proof to support his claim.

Tan told Hussain, who is better known as Hussain Yee, that more than 100 police reports had been lodged against Naik after his speech on Aug 8, 2019.

To another question by Tan, Hussain admitted being aware from media reports that Naik had been banned from entering Canada, the UK and Bangladesh.

Hussain also dismissed the lawyer’s suggestion that several politicians and civil servants had made adverse remarks about Naik following the Kota Bharu speech.

Naik is said to have told his audience in that speech that the Malaysian Hindu community, which is in the minority here, enjoyed more rights than the Muslim minority in India.

He is also said to have questioned the loyalty of Malaysian Hindus, who, he claimed, supported the prime minister of India rather than Malaysia’s own prime minister.

Naik is also said to have called Chinese Malaysians “guests” in response to a politician who labelled him a “visitor”.

He allegedly went on to say that these “guests” must return to China if he is to be deported to India.

Naik, who is now a permanent resident here, is suing Santiago for publishing defamatory remarks through a media statement issued on Aug 13, 2019.

Santiago said the press statement had been made to urge the then Pakatan Harapan government led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad to consider whether Naik should be allowed to comment on Malaysia’s domestic politics.

Naik filed the suit in December 2019, claiming that Santiago had said the arrest of 12 individuals under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) over alleged links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was because of their criticism of Naik.

He claims Santiago’s remarks, which were published in a news report titled “Criticism of Zakir Naik may have led to LTTE arrests, says MP”, published by FMT on Nov 26, 2019, were motivated by malice and hatred.

The controversial Muslim preacher said Santiago’s remarks had injured his reputation and caused him to suffer humiliation and ridicule.

Santiago’s defence is that the remarks were fair comment on a matter of public interest and were made without malice.

Santiago was also represented by SN Fam, while Akberdin Abdul Kader and Meor Hafiz Salehan appeared for Naik.

The hearing before Justice Akhtar Tahir has been adjourned to April 3.