Umno Supreme Council member Mohd Puad Zarkashi today said he would not apologise to Muhyiddin Yassin for a Facebook post claiming that the prime minister had refused to undergo quarantine upon returning from an official trip to Indonesia earlier this month, despite the threat of legal action.
Puad said he had received the letter of demand (LOD) from Muhyiddin’s lawyers asking for a public apology and RM10 million in compensation for allegedly defaming the prime minister.
“As an individual guaranteed of freedom of speech, I will not allow myself to be bullied by Muhyiddin in the same way as Umno has been bullied,” he said in a Facebook post.
“I do not need to apologise, nor do I need to remove my post on Facebook. I choose to go to court. This will give me the chance to stand together with those who oppose the practice of double standards in the quarantine issue.”
Puad, the former Batu Pahat MP who is among the most vocal critics of the present government, had spoken of a commotion at the Subang airport where Muhyiddin’s delegation landed after its trip to Jakarta, the prime minister’s first official visit abroad since he was sworn into office on March 1 last year.
“Health ministry officials were waiting for quarantine management duties when the PM’s delegation arrived from Jakarta. It is said they refused the 10-day quarantine? The people deserve to know,” said Puad, accusing authorities of discrimination in implementing the quarantine order.
The Prime Minister’s Office however denied the suggestion, saying Muhyiddin was ordered to undergo home surveillance order, or HSO, as well as to wear a wristband.
The LOD sent by Muhyiddin on Tuesday said Puad’s statements were malicious and untrue.
It also stated that legal action would be taken against Puad, the former deputy education minister, if the apology and compensation were not forthcoming within a week.
Puad said he would leave it to his lawyers to answer the LOD.
“I have been accused of slandering the prime minister although I was only asking for an explanation,” he said.
“If even that is cause for legal action, then it is only appropriate that I go to court.”
He also said the decision to shorten the mandatory quarantine period from 10 days to three for ministers appeared to have been made in haste.
“This makes it a matter of public interest that should be questioned,” he said. “Article 8 of the Federal Constitution clearly states that the people have the right to fair treatment. Is the three-day quarantine period not at odds with this?”