- Advertisement -

Anwar should seek legal recourse over Bloomberg's casino report, says lawyer

As a Muslim, the prime minister is at greater risk of having his reputation tarnished than the other individuals who own gambling businesses, says Haniff Khatri Abdulla.

3 minute read
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim wants all parties named in the Bloomberg report on the planned casino in Forest City to issue a denial, but has yet to indicate any legal action by him.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim wants all parties named in the Bloomberg report on the planned casino in Forest City to issue a denial, but has yet to indicate any legal action by him.

A lawyer has questioned the lack of action so far by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim against Bloomberg over a recent report placing him in talks with two prominent tycoons about a proposal for a casino in Forest City, contrasting this with the defamation suits filed against media houses and critics in the past. 

Haniff Khatri Abdulla referred to the suit Anwar filed shortly after becoming prime minister against Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor over a speech during the campaign period for the last general election.

"If he can sue Sanusi, why is there no word on whether he will sue (Bloomberg)?" Haniff asked.

In the suit against Sanusi, Anwar claimed the PAS leader had defamed him as an immoral person in a speech touching on his 2015 sodomy conviction, which the prime minister said was widely circulated on social media.

Anwar also obtained a court injunction to prevent Sanusi from repeating the remarks in any form, even in jest.

Haniff said it was now important for Anwar to demand an apology and retraction from Bloomberg.

He said the issue was no longer the accuracy of the report, but the fact that it contained allegations about Anwar that he had denied.

"Anwar Ibrahim was named (in the report) and since the prime minister said on the same day that the report was false and a lie, the onus is on him to sue," Haniff told MalaysiaNow.

Berjaya's Vincent Tan and Genting's Lim Kok Thay.
Berjaya's Vincent Tan and Genting's Lim Kok Thay.

In the report published last week, Bloomberg said Anwar had met with tycoons Vincent Tan of Berjaya and Lim Kok Thay of Genting, as well as representatives of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, to discuss plans to open a casino in Forest City.

"Anwar, senior government officials and the businessmen had lunch and meetings on the possibility of granting what would only be Malaysia’s second-ever casino licence," the report said, adding that the talks were "preliminary".

The report came eight months after Anwar announced the establishment of a Special Financial Zone (SFZ) in Forest City to boost Johor's economy and revitalise the southern settlement, which has been labelled a ghost town.

Anwar denied the report, calling it a lie, but stopped short of saying whether he would seek a retraction from the US-based media group.

Instead, he called on the parties named in the article to "take the necessary action".

'Set an example'

Haniff asked why Anwar was calling on other parties to take action when he was the one whose reputation was at stake, given that the two tycoons were already involved in the gambling industry.

Haniff Khatri Abdullah
Haniff Khatri Abdullah

He said while such a report could be damaging to Muslim leaders, it could be seen in a positive light for the two businessmen as they did not consider gambling a religious sin.

"It is he (Anwar) who stands to lose. Indeed, (legal) action should be taken. For me, there is no excuse, firstly because he said the report was false, and secondly because he said the people mentioned should take action.

"That's him!" he said.

Tan and Lim respectively own the Sports Toto betting franchise and Malaysia's only casino.

Haniff said the report tarnished not only the government's reputation in the eyes of the Muslim majority, but also Anwar's image in the Muslim world.

He also drew comparison with the police's swift action in arresting an activist for comments citing the Bloomberg report.

Badrul Hisham Shaharin, better known as Chegubard, was arrested shortly after he uploaded comments on social media quoting the report.

According to his lawyer, Chegubard is being investigated under the Sedition Act and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

MalaysiaNow has contacted the Prime Minister's Office to ask if there will be any action in relation to the Bloomberg report.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, which regularly issues warnings to local media over reports it deems "fake", has also been contacted.