KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 — Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor has reportedly denied labelling Tan Sri Vincent Tan and his company Berjaya Land Berhad as corrupt.
In his statement of defence against the duo’s defamation suit reported by several media outlets, Sanusi said his campaign speech focused on the public’s welfare rather than talking about corporations and the wealthy.
The Perikatan Nasional (PN) election director explained that the reference to big tycoons such as Tan was merely stating that as Kedah menteri besar he “would prioritise the welfare of people from the lower class and not merely that of the corporates or rich”.
“The policy mentioned by the defendant was the people-friendly policy that has always been extolled by the defendant in his campaign and is also the policy of the Kedah state administration under the defendant’s leadership.
“It did not in any way defame P1 as a major corporate [figure],” said the statement, referring to Tan who was named as the first plaintiff.
The defence was filed on Saturday at the Shah Alam High Court, with lawyer Mohd Faizi Che Abu representing Sanusi.
In August, Tan who is the founder of the Berjaya Group and subsidiary Berjaya Land Berhad filed a civil action over Sanusi’s speech during the Kedah state election campaign at Dataran Darulaman in Jitra.
Previously, Tan’s lawyers issued a letter of demand seeking the PN leader’s apology as well as RM200 million compensation over an allegation of impropriety between the tycoon and Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari in relation to the Klang River cleaning project.
The report stated that the Jeneri assemblyman had claimed that the reference to Tan and the Selangor river project meant that the defendant did not care about the business conducted by the tycoon there in his statement of defence.
In raising the defence of justification, Sanusi contended that his speech was focused on raising the issue of governance and leakages linked to the project so that the people would be aware of the matter of public interest. In addition, Sanusi also pleaded fair comment and qualified privilege.
Through the defamation suit, Tan and Berjaya Land rubbished the allegation linked to the river project and labelled it as baseless and untrue.
The two plaintiffs claimed that Sanusi issued the statement in bad faith and for “pure and pedantic political expediency and inflammatory rhetoric of the defendant” and are seeking payment for unspecified general, aggravated, and exemplary damages.
Tan and Berjaya Land are also seeking an injunction to restrain Sanusi from further repeating the alleged defamatory statement.
In addition, the plaintiffs seek five percent interest on any judgment sum awarded, costs, and any other relief deemed fit by the court.
Tan and Berjaya Land are represented by the law firm Pierre Chuah & Associates.