Muhyiddin files defamation suit, claims damages commensurate with Anwar’s RM200m compensation demand

(The Edge) – Perikatan Nasional chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had on Thursday (July 27) filed a defamation suit against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim regarding the current prime minster’s comments on the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) settlers’ debt fiasco.

In his claim, Muhyiddin is seeking general, aggravated and exemplary damages commensurate with the RM200 million compensation that Anwar demanded from him.

Last week, Anwar, in reply to Muhyiddin’s letter of demand (LOD), had indicated that he was seeking RM200 million from Muhyiddin, who is a former PM, for damaging his reputation and wanted the Pagoh member of Parliament to retract the LOD and apologise.

Muhyiddin’s suit was filed at the High Court here on Thursday night, just before nomination day in the six state elections on Saturday, by Messrs Rosli Dahlan Saravana Partnership.

Muhyiddin, in his statement of claim, said when he was PM from 2020 to 2021, one of the initiatives taken was to write off 80% of Felda’s debt in the sum of RM8.3 billion out of RM12.1 billion that was approved by the Cabinet on Oct 14, 2020, and the issuance of a RM9.9 billion sukuk to be guaranteed by the government to increase Felda’s equity in FGV Holdings Bhd.

This includes an injection of an annual government grant of RM990 million for 10 years to Felda for the repayment of the sukuk, and the settlers’ debt write-off was also presented in Felda’s financial statement ending 2021.

Muhyiddin said he would rely on former minister in the PM’s Department Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed’s written Parliament reply dated Dec 16, 2021, that 98,605 Felda settlers, or 87.54% of the 112,638 Felda settlers, have executed the ‘Abolition of Loans and Plantation Management between Felda and Settlers’.

The former PM also said he would rely on Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said’s written reply dated Feb 23, 2023, in Parliament that stated the Felda settlers’ debt write-off was approved in 2021, and Felda chairman Tan Sri Idris Jusoh’s media statement dated Feb 24 this year that the Felda settlers debt write-off to the sum of RM8.3 billion out of RM12.1 billion had been completed in 2021.

The Pagoh MP alleged that Anwar, who is also the finance minister, had uttered defamatory words about him at the Felda Settlers Day 2023 celebration on July 7 and at the UUM Dialogue session on July 8.

On July 20, he claimed that Anwar’s media statement on the ‘Assignment of Finance Service Reserve Account 1’ dated June 26, another document titled ‘Kerajaan Malaysia Arahan Pembayaran’ dated July 18 for RM990 million and a Finance Ministry statement on the same day do not relate to the Felda settlers’ debt write-off.

“These documents, as confirmed by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance themselves, relate to Felda’s RM9.9 billion sukuk and the government’s 10-year grant of RM990 million per annum to Felda and not the Felda settlers’ debt write-off which had been implemented in 2021,” Muhyiddin said.

Anwar manipulated documents and what defamatory statement meant

Muhyiddin claimed that Anwar deliberately manipulated the Felda RM9.9 billion sukuk and the government grant of RM990 million per annum, and passed them off as the Felda settlers’ debt write-off which had been implemented in 2021. Following this, Muhyddin alleged that Anwar had defamed him. The Pagoh MP then issued the LOD, after which Anwar failed to apologise.

He claimed that Anwar’s defamatory statements contain plainly false, untrue, unwarranted, unsubstantiated, malicious and mischievous statements against him.

Muhyiddin complained that Anwar’s statement meant that he (Muhyiddin) had lied about the Felda settlers’ debt write-off, is a person without integrity, had betrayed his promise, and did not fulfil his responsibilities as the then PM to write off the debt.

He further alleged that the statements made by Anwar also meant that he had caused the Felda settlers’ debt to increase, had misappropriated the funding of the allocation for the Felda settlers’ debt write-off, and allegedly manipulated the peoples’ money, and is a traitor who tarnished the Malay and Muslim struggle.

Those statements made by Anwar, Muhyiddin claimed, also meant that he did not implement the debt write-off during his 18 months as PM, that he is a corrupt person and had lied about the write-off, abused his power as the then PM to give out contracts to his family and is an unfit Malay, Muslim leader.

He further alleged that Anwar had shown enmity, personal spite and ill will towards him, and as finance minister and PM, had failed to verify the facts and ought to have known the facts.

“Anwar’s statements are wholly untrue, unjustified, mala fide (in bad faith) and made without any basis whatsoever,” Muhyiddin said, noting the PM’s preoccupation to be a populist by claiming credit for actions that were in fact taken by Muhyiddin.

Besides seeking the damages, Muhyiddin also sought the removal of the defamatory statements carried by video and social media like the PM’s official Facebook account.