As the Secretary General of UMNO steps forward to back Hadi’s withdrawal of his defamation case against Sarawak Report (admitting that it had been part of PAS’s election strategy only) Najib’s most loyal blogger RPK has maintained his chorus of support for Hadi, seeking to imply inside knowledge about the conclusion of the case::
“..there is no order for costs, which means both sides pay their own costs, and Clare claimed she has spent about RM2 million or so thus far. Why would Clare allow Hadi to get away without reimbursing her for the RM2 million she has wasted if her allegation is true and Hadi lied?…..”
[Malaysia today –The Hadi-Clare Case: It Was Suka Sama Suka, Not Rogol]
As has been well rehearsed in public now, the agreed terms of settlement of the proceedings are confidential and so RPK’s speculation is on the face of it uninformed. But the continuing spin from RPK follows a pattern of PAS party collaboration, fact-twisting and apparent leaks to pro-Najib bloggers that dogged the conduct of Hadi’s case from the very start, at a time when PAS support for UMNO was being vigorously denied.
Throughout the course of the defamation suit brought by Hadi Awang, Sarawak Report has pointed to evidence that the entire case was primarily a political exercise on the part of his political party PAS, as opposed to a genuine concern over Hadi’s personal reputation.
PAS had made public on numerous occasions that it wished to demonstrate to potential voters that concerns about the party receiving money from UMNO were ill founded. In 2016 Sarawak Report had made reference to those widespread concerns in the report complained of on its site (which remains available here).
Political parties have no status to sue for libel. Sarawak Report sources close to PAS say that at a meeting to discuss PAS’s options for tackling the rumours, a decision was made that Hadi would lodge a suit in the UK based on the argument that Hadi himself had been defamed in the article (even though his name was not mentioned).
Sarawak Report has always maintained that the article does not refer to Hadi personally. Hadi’s lawyers Carter-Ruck did threaten proceedings in the name of PAS in their first letter to Sarawak Report in December 2016, despite presumably knowing that a political party did not have standing to sue. PAS was then quietly dropped as a party before proceedings were issued in Hadi’s name alone in April 2017. Carter-Ruck’s rationale for threatening a baseless claim (against an unrepresented party) has never been explained.
According to several sources, the key advocate for Hadi taking action and the man who became one of Hadi’s closest advisors communicating with the London lawyers, Carter Ruck, was the senior party figure Raja Idris Kamarudin (working together with Hadi’s then-political secretary Dr Samsuri Mokhtar and the secretary general of the party Takiyuddin Hassan in assisting Hadi to manage the case funded through PAS). Hadi’s lawyers later confirmed that Raja Idris was acting as Hadi’s agent in the litigation.
Raja Idris Kamarudin, who is distantly related to the royal family of Selangor and holds a public position in the PAS state of Terengganu, is the brother of the infamous blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin (known as RPK), who has been the subject of multiple defamation complaints by numerous parties, including Sarawak Report.
RPK has made no secret about being paid to write pieces attacking the opponents of those who engage his services and during the run up to GE14 he made no secret either of acting as the ‘proxy’ of then prime minister Najib Razak.
It was therefore surprising to find that when Hadi Awang issued his writ in the London High Court he included as one of his prime witnesses none other than RPK, who has been widely condemned as an unreliable and patently untruthful character, who had already demonstrated an extreme bias against Sarawak Report. RPK was going to give evidence as to the harm Sarawak Report’s article had done to Hadi personally in England.
Indeed, Sarawak Report’s legal team soon had reason to issue a number of formal complaints to Carter Ruck pertaining to RPK publishing information known only to the parties and their advisors about the case – information that was being distorted in order to taunt and villify the defendant.
Hadi never provided an answer as to how information had leaked to RPK by PAS and his legal team claimed that he was not in a position to restrain the libellous articles attacking Sarawak Report penned by the brother of his key agent in the litigation Raja Idris Kamarudin. London lawyers Carter Ruck asserted that the defendant’s complaints about ‘third party’ bloggers was “melodramatic”.
A witness statement by Sarawak Report’s lawyers detailed the nature of the harassment:
1.1 There is a strong basis for linking the Claimant to the harassment of the Defendant during the course of these proceedings, including co-operation with those who are intimidating the Defendant and the Defendant’s prospective witness. For example, one of the main perpetrators of the harassment, abuse, defamation and threats which are interfering with these proceedings is the Claimant’s own prospective witness in these proceedings in that the perpetrator’s evidence is relied on by the Claimant in the Particulars of Claim.
1.2 Despite many requests made to the Claimant’s solicitors to agree to take steps to help bring the harassment and intimidation of the Defendant and her prospective witness to an end, the Claimant has refused all such requests and suggested that they are an attempt to distract from the litigation and are melodramatic….
During the course of these proceedings, it has become apparent that information relating to the proceedings has been passed to the Malaysian authorities (which continues to seek to arrest the Defendant) and to the perpetrators of much of the harassment, threats and abuse directed at the Defendant. The Claimant denies responsibility for sharing information with the perpetrators of the harassment, but accepts that it is a possibility the information may have reached the perpetrators as a result of a relationship with or connection to the Claimant and/or his political party PAS.
Further extensive details of the harassment campaign pursued by RPK and its links to Hadi’s legal team were included in the 41 page witness document, about which Hadi and would have faced extensive and uncomfortable questioning during trial:
37. On 23 August 2017, RPK’s Malaysia Today and The Third Force websites published an article with the headline ‘Clare Rewcastle desperately changing horses midstream‘ (see page 42 to 45). The article: 1) annexes the court order of Master Davidson dated 2 August 2017, which it is to be inferred must have been provided to the author by the Claimant (given no non-party accessed the court file since the order had been made); 2) refers to the fact of RPC replacing Seddons as her lawyer, information which was only known to the Court and the Claimant; 3) repeatedly abuses the Defendant calling her ‘an egotistical retard of a con-woman‘, ‘a habitual delinquent‘ and ‘quite the nutcase‘; 4) as was wholly foreseeable given RPK course of conduct over the previous two years set out in KM2, repeatedly defames the Defendant alleging that she had been paid to run a smear campaign against Najib Razak by his political opponent and former Malaysian Prime Minster Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Defendant had therefore fabricated the evidence demonstrating the 1MDB scandal and Prime Minister Najib’s involvement; and 5) taunts the Defendant, suggesting she needed to put aside 9 to 10 million Malaysian Ringgit (£1.65 to £1.8 million) to pay the Claimant and her own lawyers when her defence fails.
38. The 23 August 2017 article was published on RPK’s Malaysia Today website alongside an advert identical to that mentioned at para 27 (see page 23) appealing for donations to PAS to fund the Claimant’s claim against the Defendant. From this advert it is evident that: 1) PAS was funding the Claimant’s claim; 2) the Claimant and/or his agents had chosen to advertise on RPK’s Malaysia Today website and were aware of the history and nature of its coverage of the Defendant and the 1MDB scandal; 3) the Claimant was in part funding its campaign by procuring donations from those who would read the defamatory allegations, taunts and abuse directed at the Defendant in the 23 August 2017 article…
40. On 24 August 2017, RPC wrote to Carter-Ruck stating that we would not be in a position to finalise the Defence by the deadline for filing the Defence of 30 August and seeking Carter-Ruck’s agreement to a 28 day extension (see page 46).
41. The next day, 25 August 2017, RPK’s Malaysia Today and The Third Force websites published an article with the headline ‘Clare, let’s wait and see what happens on 30th August‘ (see pages 47 to 49). The article: 1) quoted a statement made by the Defendant in response to the 23 August 2017 article asking RPK not to mis-represent the issues in the proceedings; 2) abuses the Defendant calling her ‘an incondite of a yokel‘; 3) repeatedly defames the Defendant alleging that she fabricated evidence of the 1MDB scandal and Najib Razak’s involvement; and 4) stresses three times (including in the headline) the importance of the Defendant filing her defence by 4pm on 30 August 2017 (when the Claimant had been informed the day before that the Defendant could not meet this deadline).
42. The 25 August 2017 article was published on RPK’s Malaysia Today website alongside an advert identical to that referred to at para 27 (see page 23) appealing for donations to PAS to fund the Claimant’s claim against the Defendant. From this advert it is apparent that: 1) PAS was funding the Claimant’s claim; 2) the Claimant and/or his agents had chosen to advertise on RPK’s Malaysia Today website aware of the history and ongoing coverage of the Defendant and the 1MDB scandal on Malaysia Today; 3) the Claimant was continuing to fund his claim by procuring donations to PAS from those who would read defamatory allegations and abuse directed at the Defendant in the 25 August 2017 article….
47. On 31 August 2017, RPK’s Malaysia Today and The Third Force websites published an article with the headline ‘Sarawak Report fails to meet 4pm deadline‘ (see pages 60 to 63). The article recounts a biased account of RPC court clerk’s hearing before Master McCloud and what it meant, stating:
1.1 that the Defendant had to file and serve her Defence by 30 August 2017;
1.2 that Defendant had ‘asked the judge to grant her an extension of time to submit her case against Hadi but it had been refused‘;
1.3 that the Defendant has been attempting ‘to drag the trial past the 14th general election by seeking an extension from the judge‘;
1.4 that the judge ‘more or less told her to fly kites‘;
1.5 that the Defendant ‘will now have to return to court in October, where it is likely that her counsel will make another attempt to seek an extension’.
48. The article makes clear that RPK’s Malaysia Today and The Third Force websites had been informed of RPC’s account of the hearing before Master McCloud, as sent to Carter-Ruck on the evening of 25 August 2017. Notably, this account included information only available to RPC, the Defendant, Carter-Ruck and the Claimant, so that the only remotely feasible source for the contents of Malaysia Today and The Third Force’s article was the Claimant.
49. Notably, the 31 August 2017 article also: 1) wrongly accused the Defendant of violating Master Davidson’s order of 2 August 2017 by failing to file her Defence; 2) defamed the Defendant by stating her failure to file a defence demonstrated that the documents she possessed implicating Najib Razak in the 1MDB scandal were nothing but fabrications; 3) defamed the Defendant by stating that she had a ‘malicious intent to depose…a democratically elected leader of a sovereign nation‘; 4) defamed the Defendant by stating that she had been paid ‘millions’ by former Malaysian Prime Minster Dr Mahathir Mohamad to depose Najib Razak by fabricating evidence of the 1MDB scandal and Najib Razak’s involvement; 5) defamed the Defendant by stating that she had herself been ‘conspiring to sabotage 1MDB and to turn the Chinese government against the administration of Najib Razak‘.
50. The 31 August 2017 article was again published on RPK’s Malaysia Today website alongside an advert identical to that referred to at para 27 (see page 23) appealing for donations to PAS to fund the Claimant’s claim against the Defendant. From this advert it is evident that: 1) PAS was funding the Claimant’s claim; 2) the Claimant and/or his agents had chosen to advertise on RPK’s Malaysia Today website aware of the history and ongoing coverage of the Defendant, Najib Razak and the 1MDB scandal on Malaysia Today; and 3) the Claimant was continuing to fund his claim by procuring donations to PAS from those who would read defamatory allegations and abuse directed at the Defendant in the 31 August 2017 article…
53. On 2 September, RPK’s Malaysia Today and The Third Force websites published an article with the headline ‘Clare Rewcastle’s Donors Actually Giving Hadi Money‘ (see page 65 to 69). The article: 1) discloses information previously only available to the parties about the proceedings including a further description of RPC’s attendance before Master McCloud and enclosing Master Davidson’s order of 2 August; 2) defames the Defendant by again suggesting she has fabricated evidence of the 1MDB scandal; 3) sought to discourage financial support of the Defendant by suggesting that funds raised by the Defendant to help her fight the case had been paid to the Claimant in satisfaction of the costs order dated 2 August 2017.
54. On 4 September, RPK’s Malaysia Today and The Third Force websites published an article with the headline ‘Evidence surfaces that Clare Brown and hubby stole taxpayers’ money‘ (see pages 70 to 78). The article 1) defames the Defendant by stating that she, her husband Andrew Brown and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had been found by the House of Commons to have defrauded the UK tax revenue in that Gordon Brown had claimed for his share of the costs of a shared cleaner with the Defendant and her husband (in fact, as was widely reported in the public domain, following careful scrutiny by Sir Thomas Legg on behalf of Parliament the opposite conclusion had been reached: that Gordon Brown had complied with Parliamentary expense rules at all times); 2) racially abuses the Defendant by stating ‘Tell me, who is this white piece of trash to dictate terms to the Malaysian mainstream media?” and describing her as ‘white trash‘; and 3) suggests that the Defendant fabricated the 1MDB scandal implicating the administration of Najib Razak. As above, this article was published alongside an advert identical to that referred to at para 27 (see page 23) appealing for donations to PAS to fund the Claimant’s claim against the Defendant. The same conclusions are evident from this article as described above.
Eventually, Sarawak Report’s lawyers filed a counter suit against Hadi Awang for damages relating to the use of information in RPK’s articles and in articles in the Third Force blog, whose writer has publicly described RPK as his ‘mentor’.
Sarawak Report’s lawyers also submitted a list of some 100 offensive, foul mouthed and defamatory articles penned by RPK and Third Force, which sought to use the case brought by Hadi to discredit Sarawak Report and to assert that by extension Najib Razak was innocent over 1MDB, which RPK regularly described as a hoax made up by Sarawak Report to undermine UMNO.
Read the details of Sarawak Report’s Counterclaim against Hadi Awang:
31. The Defendant repeats paragraph 22.2 of the Defence.
[22. Further the Defendant will contend that the Claimant’s purpose and intention in these proceedings has not been the legitimate one of correcting and protecting himself from any perceived serious harm to his reputation but rather for the illegitimate purposes of:
a)protecting the reputation and advancing the political purposes of the PAS party; and
b) protecting the reputation and advancing the political purposes of Najib Razak.
22.1 It is apparent from the public statements by the Claimant and the party PAS from first publication of the Article and in the period before and since these proceedings were begun that their concern about the Article has not been with injury to the Claimant’s reputation or feelings but rather with injury to the reputation of the party and its political prospects. For example:
- On 9 August 2016 the New Straits Times website reported the party announcing that the party intended to take legal action against Sarawak Report over allegations that the party had received RM90million from PM Najib Razak. PAS Deputy President Datak Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man was quoted: “The party is unsure of their intention in linking us with UMNO and we will take legal action towards Sarawak Report, which clearly has a wrong intention of wanting to tarnish the party’s name.”
- On 16 August 2016 the New Straits Times reported the party announcing that it had started proceedings to sue Sarawak Report in the UK following its article alleging that the party received RM90m in political contribution from UMNO. The Claimant was reported saying: “We are in discussions on the appointment of lawyers in London.”
- On 16 August 2016 the Borneo Bulletin Online reported the party announcing that it was in the process of suing Sarawak Report over its allegation that the party had received millions from PM Najib Razak.
- On 16 December 2016 the freemalaysiatoday.com website reported the statement by PAS Secretary General Takiyaddin Hassan that the party’s lawyers in London had sent a letter of demand to the Defendant. The Secretary General stated he was mindful that the party must protect its reputation. PAS Deputy President Datak Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man was reported stating the party would take action against Sarawak Report for tarnishing the party’s reputation as well as its Islamic policies.
- On 16 December 2016 the AstroAwani website reported PAS Secretary General Takiyaddin Hassan saying that PAS had sent a letter of claim demanding: retraction of the claim that the party’s top leadership received RM90m from PM Najib Razak; an apology according to terms agreed by the party and an undertaking not to publish “false accusations” in the future.
- On 16 December 2016 the malaymailonline website reported the “PAS mouthpiece” the Harukah Daily quoting PAS Secretary General Takiyaddin Hassan announcing that the party had sent a letter of demand to the Defendant making three demands: to retract the article; to publish an apology and retraction of all allegations; an undertaking to avoid publishing “false allegations” in the future, and saying the party and PAS President Hadi Awang were parties named in the notice to the Defendant.
- On 10 February 2017 the news365 website reported PAS Deputy President Datak Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man saying the party denied the allegation by Kelantan Amanah adviser Husam Musa that PAS had received RM90m from UMNO and “PAS will take legal action against Husam Musa just like we did against the Sarawak Report.”
- On 15 February 2017 the freemlaysiatoday.com website reported that PAS Youth had lodged a report with the police that the party had been slandered by Husam Musa and the allegation that RM90m had been given to the party by UMNO.
- On 12 March 2017 malaymailonline reported under the headline “PAS initiates lawsuit over claim of RM90m from Umno in Affin Bank account”: the party’s announcement that it had “started the legal process against its detractors who accused it of being a recipient of RM90m from ruling party UMNO after the allegations started surfacing in August last year”; that the party had said the suit would be filed by the party’s law and human rights bureau; and that the party had said in December it had sent a letter of demand to the Defendant in the UK.
- On 1 May 2017 the Malaysia Gazette reported PAS Deputy President Datak Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man announcing at the close of a debate at the party’s 63rd General Assembly, attended by the Claimant, the launch of a fund to finance proceedings against the Defendant. The Deputy President stated that the proceedings were being brought by the party because the party had decided to take legal action to defend the party’s reputation from an allegation that the party had accepted cash from UMNO leaders.
22.2 The Claimant has colluded with the Malaysian government of Najib Razak and their agents to exploit these proceedings as part of their propaganda efforts to exonerate Najib Razak and disable and discredit the Defendant and Sarawak Report and its justified campaign that Najib Razak be removed from office and brought to justice for his corrupt and criminal conduct, particularly his embezzlement with his family and associates of astronomical sums of public money. To this end the Claimant has himself or by his agents passed information concerning these proceedings to those agents, enabling and encouraging the publication of articles viciously and racially abusing, defaming and harassing the Defendant by means of The Third Force website and RPK’s Malaysia Today website (and by the inevitable subsequent republications of those articles’ content, for example on Malaysia Outlook, Malaysiakini, Free Malaysia Today, Malaysian Insight and The New Strait Times) on the pretext of reporting on developments in the proceedings, doing so in order falsely and dishonestly to claim that those developments discredit the case against Najib Razak and demonstrate his innocence. The Defendant will rely on the following articles and all such other articles and instances of harassing conduct, whether by publication on The Third Force or Malaysia Today or otherwise as may come to her attention, whether as a result of disclosure in these proceedings or otherwise:
- An article dated 5 August 2017 on The Third Force website written by Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, the Claimant’s Political Secretary, under the heading “Civil suit against Clare Rewcastle Brown (Sarawak Report)”
- An article dated 6 August 2017 on The Third Force website reproduced on Malaysia Today headed “UK court rules no evidence that Najib and Malaysian judiciary are corrupt”.
- An article dated 23 August 2017 on The Third Force headed “Clare Rewcastle desperately changing horses midstream”.
- An article dated 25 August 2017 on The Third Force website reproduced on Malaysia Today headed “Clare, let’s wait and see what happens on 30th August”.
- An article dated 31 August on The Third Force website reproduced on Malaysia Today websites under the headline “Sarawak Report fails to meet 4pm deadline”.
- An article dated 2 September 2017 on The Third Force website reproduced on Malaysia Today under the headline “Clare Rewcastle donor’s actually giving Hadi money”.
- An article dated 4 September 2017 on The Third Force website headed ‘Evidence surfaces that Clare Brown and hubby stole taxpayers’ money‘, reported on 5 September 2017 on Malaysia Today and hyperlinked.]32. Publication of the articles identified at paragraphs 22.2.1 to 22.2.7 of the Defence (copies of which form Annexure 1 hereto) on the Third Force website and the Malaysia Today website and each of those publications were, by virtue of their said content and the said circumstances of their publication, occasions of conduct together constituting a course of conduct amounting to harassment of the Defendant proscribed by s.1 (1) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.33. The Claimant by himself and/or his agents was either party to those publications or their publication was aided, abetted, counselled or procured by the Claimant and/or his agents passing information concerning these proceedings to the authors of the articles and/or the publishers of the Third Force and Malaysia Today websites, enabling and procuring publication.34. At all material times the Claimant and/or his agents knew or ought to have known, alternatively it was reasonably foreseeable, that the publications in contemplation would amount to harassment of the Defendant. The Defendant will rely on:
- The inevitable knowledge of the Claimant and/or his agents of the nature, purposes and intentions towards the Defendant of the contemplated publishers, namely the agents of the beleaguered and notoriously corrupt Najib Razak and his bullies and propagandists who since the Defendant had begun exposing his implication in the 1MDB corruption scandal had been engaged in a campaign of defamation, harassment and intimidation designed to discredit and disable the Defendant and Sarawak Report.
- The self-evidently harassing intention and effect of each successive publication.35. The said harassment has caused the Defendant severe stress, anxiety and distress, for which she claims damages.36. Unless restrained by this Honourable Court the Claimant will continue to harass the Defendant.
AND THE DEFENDANT CLAIMS:
- Damages for harassment pursuant to section 3(2) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997; and
- An injunction pursuant to section 3 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 restraining the Claimant from further harassing her.
Central to the counter claim was that the misuse of the proceedings in this way further demonstrated that the actual purpose of the case was not the legitimate one of supposedly defending the reputation of Hadi Awang, but rather the illegitimate aim of advancing the political purposes of PAS and UMNO in the run up to the election.
That argument was corroborated yet again on Wednesday by none other than the General Secretary of UMNO, who stated that Hadi was right to withdraw his case because its original purpose had been to stop damage to the party at GE14 arising from widespread concerns amongst PAS members that money was flowing from UMNO.
The election was over, Annuar Musa told journalists, so why fly to London? “Now it’s game over”.
Sarawak Report withdrew its counter claim against Hadi as part of the ending of these court proceedings. However, as a result, the allegations over deliberate leaks between Hadi’s advisors and the likes of RPK and the questions over collaboration with UMNO remain unjudged by the British court. Sarawak Report has invited PAS to comment.
Read the Witness Statement detailing alleged harassment by RPK here: