Sunday, June 20, 2021

Publisher behind ex-AG’s book unperturbed by threats of legal suits

But Gerakbudaya's Chong Ton Sin believes the book does not merit a ban.

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Negative publicity for a book is a publisher’s dream, as it has the power to pique public curiosity over the contents of the volume and generate sales.

But for the publisher behind former attorney-general Tommy Thomas’ autobiography, which has been the subject of police reports and threats of legal action, there is also concern that the book could be banned by the authorities.

Chong Ton Sin, who owns GB Gerakbudaya Enterprise, however said the book contains no elements of sedition, often cited as grounds for banning by the home ministry.

“In the case of Tommy, it is a bit different because he talks about problems about the laws and misconduct, so anyone could lodge police reports and file suits,” Chong, a former detainee of the Internal Security Act (ISA), told MalaysiaNow.

Thomas’ book, “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”, is his account of what transpired behind key events under the 22-month Pakatan Harapan administration.

Since its release, the book has attracted criticism from those mentioned in it as well as Thomas’ former officers in the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).

Thomas makes several admissions in the book, including his ambition as far back as 2013 to hold the office of AG, and the support he got from top DAP leaders for his eventual appointment.

“As long as the home ministry does not ban it, I will not stop its publication.”

The 552-page book was written with the help of several politicians including DAP’s Liew Ching Tong and Syahredzan Johan, as well as former Bersih chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan and businessman Kalimullah Hassan of ECM Libra Group.

A PDF version of the complete book is already making the rounds on social media platforms including WhatsApp, prompting Chong to warn of legal action against those who distribute the soft copies.

Still, he is unperturbed by the threats of lawsuits, saying the book will still be available with reprints on the way.

Chong has already been slapped with a legal notice from lawyers to Najib Razak, who is suing Thomas for defamation.

Other than the author, the publisher and printer can also be dragged to court over the contents of a publication.

“As long as the home ministry does not ban it, I will not stop its publication,” Chong said.

Those who have disputed Thomas’ narrative of events in the book include Dr Mahathir Mohamad, senior government and private lawyers as well as current and past AGs and Dewan Rakyat speakers.

Thomas had suggested, among others, that he did not believe in the capability of government prosecutors to handle high-profile cases such as those involving the charges against former prime minister Najib.

The remarks drew condemnation from several quarters, including current AG Idrus Harun who said Thomas had insulted officers who were professional and diligent in their duties.

“I would like to emphasise and give my assurance that I will not be influenced by the contents of the book that clearly show narrow thinking from the brief experience of a man who has no understanding of the public service institution, especially the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the very functions of the AG,” Idrus had said.

Yesterday, former AG Mohamed Apandi Ali lodged a police report, saying Thomas had breached the Official Secrets Act by divulging confidential exchanges. An earlier report was lodged by former solicitor-general Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria over comments by Thomas suggesting he was not qualified to lead the prosecution team in Najib’s SRC International trial.

For now, the publicity surrounding the book has generated sales for Chong.

He told MalaysiaNow that another batch of 5,000 copies has been printed, on top of the first 2,000 copies which have sold out.

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