Hadi Awang vs Clare Brown

13 Nov 2017 / 11:26 H.

    A POLITICAL drama with Malaysian actors is about to explode at the High Court of Justice in London at the Strand. With all the excitement of the popular TV series – the House of Cards. Very high-profile Malaysian politicians and business players are featured. Even former Bar Council president Ambiga makes a brief cameo appearance.
    PAS president Hadi Awang has sued Sarawak Report editor, Clare Brown. In this suit filed earlier this year, Hadi claims that his reputation has been seriously harmed in England, Wales, Singapore and Malaysia – by a political commentary by Clare on the Sarawak Report website. This website has been blocked in Malaysia.
    The claim
    The sting of the complaint is in the final eight short paragraphs of the article. It states that PAS was wooed away from the opposition coalition "in the normal way ...".
    Hadi complains that this implies that he "had personally accepted, or procured or approved the acceptance by PAS of, a massive bribe ... in exchange for compromising PAS's political independence". Thus "disgracefully undermin(ing) the democratic process".
    The defence
    In her 55-page "Defence" statement, Clare says:
    » The article refers to PAS and the top echelons of the party. Hadi is neither named nor identified. And that Hadi is interfering in her and the public's rights to freedom of expression and free discussion of political matters. This interference she claims is "disproportionate, unnecessary and unjustified".
    » The words complained of cannot be understood to bear the meanings that Hadi alleged or at all.
    » The article did not – nor was it likely – to cause serious harm to Hadi's reputation.
    » Hadi was bringing this case not "to correct and protect himself from serious harm to his reputation but for the illegitimate purposes of protecting the reputations and advancing the political purposes of PAS and his political ally, ...".
    » The article contained "statements on matters of the greatest possible public interest". And that it was reasonable (for Clare) to believe that publishing the statement was in the public interest.
    » If the words could be construed to convey a defamatory imputation, Clare says that the imputation is substantially true. She will prove at the trial that Hadi as president of PAS "has knowingly allowed that party to be compromised and corrupted morally and politically and the democratic process to be undermined by senior party personnel accepting and personally benefiting from enormous secret payments of money … paid to undermine and draw PAS away from the Opposition coalition".
    Clare has also counterclaimed against Hadi for colluding with the other party to exploit these proceedings as part of propaganda efforts to discredit her and the Sarawak Report.
    Clare also says that Hadi has attacked her viciously and racially through publications. She is claiming damages for the consequent harassment which is actionable under UK's Protection from Harassment Act of 1997.
    Actors and accusations
    Sprayed throughout the defence are the names of persons Malaysians will readily recognise. Less known are their attributes. Such as of a blogger, for example, described as a paid propagandist. The whole episode involving a strategic development company is narrated in considerable detail involving all the usual players.
    The defence is studded with details of all the previous accusations which we have heard ad nauseam. The narration of the lavish lifestyle of some PAS leaders is a revelation of sorts.
    The trial
    Of course, all these allegations and counter-allegations will have to be proved – in a courtroom some 11,000km from KL. Both parties will roll out the evidence in support of their respective case. Perhaps, at long last, we may gain a blow-by-blow insight of the strategic development company's transactions that have consumed so much of our time and energy; and tested credulity.
    Will the truth finally emerge?
    Well, it will be all out there – unveiled by the protagonists in a no-holds "battle royal" within the hallowed halls of the 19th century cathedral-style London High Court of Justice.
    Gurdial is a former law professor at University of Malaya and currently a consultant in a law firm. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com


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