The Kuala Lumpur High Court today directed former Klang MP Charles Anthony Santiago to make an apology to independent preacher Zakir Naik over his statements linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2019.
Judge Akhtar Tahir directed Santiago to do so after finding that he was liable for defaming Zakir.
In his judgement, Akhtar ruled that the second statement made by Santiago in a lecture titled "Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)" on Nov 25, 2019, where Zakir had alleged that Santiago's statement had defamed him, was a dual prong, despite it being attributed to Zakir.
"One directed towards the Malaysian police and the government, and the other directed towards the plaintiff.
"The implication that can be derived from the remark against the plaintiff is that he had an influence over the police and the government in the arrest of the two DAP members," he said.
The judge ruled that despite the court finding the remarks are an expression of Santiago's opinion, it is, however, speculative in nature, and found to be defamatory against Zakir.
"The court also noted that the remark, instead of tarnishing the image and reputation of the plaintiff, has in fact enhanced the reputation of the plaintiff as being someone who is influential in Malaysia.
"The court, therefore, rules that the plaintiff is not entitled to any damages, but as the statement is defamatory, directs the defendant to apologise publicly for the remarks made linking the plaintiffs to the arrest of the two DAP members," said the judge.
Meanwhile, on Santiago's first statement made publicly towards Zakir for his talk in Kota Bharu, Kelantan on Aug 8, 2019, the judge ruled that it was not defamatory and did not tarnish Zakir's reputation.
Zakir, in the talk, reportedly delivered sensitive remarks that touched on the Malaysian Chinese and Indians where Zakir said the former were "old guests" who should go back to their ancestral land, and the latter were more loyal to India's prime minister rather than Malaysia's prime minister.
Santiago, on August 13, 2019, issued a statement saying that the talk had the potential to cause racial riots as well as bitterness amongst Malaysians.
Akhtar ruled that the press statement made by Santiago was indeed directed towards the plaintiff.
"In listening to the plaintiff's talk, the court noted that the plaintiff also made remarks about the Malaysian Chinese. It was clear that the plaintiff had interposed his personal grievance of being asked to leave the country by making these unnecessary remarks that the Malaysian Chinese should also be asked to leave the country.
"The court agreed with the defendant’s press statement that the plaintiff's remarks can cause a threat to multiracial Malaysia. In fact, the court noted that the plaintiff's remarks had attracted a rebuke from the Malaysian prime minister and many other politicians.
"It is therefore the court’s decision in this case that the defendant’s first statement is not defamatory and in fact a statement which is justified and a fair statement," the judge ruled.