Last week the High Court in London held a case management hearing for PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s libel lawsuit against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle Brown. Surprisingly the affair had received very little media fanfare both in Malaysia and in London much to the chagrin of Sarawak Report. This muted reaction is in stark contrast to when Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi initiated the defamation suit in late April 2017. His decision to do so created quite a frenzy among Malaysia’s local media particularly given the accusation that was levelled against him by the website. For those unaware the Sarawak Report had published an article on 6 August 2016 entitled “As Najib denies all over 1MDB, let’s not forget his many other criminal connections.” In the article Sarawak Report accused Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi of personally receiving a sizable amount of money from the prime minister as part of an arrangement to compromise PAS political stance. The PAS President vehemently denied the allegations, demanded Brown remove/delete the article and issue an apology to him. Brown did not respond to the complaint and instead made several public statements which complicated the matter further.
Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi chose to pursue the matter in London because Sarawak Report is based in the United Kingdom. His decision to have the case heard there underscores the fact that he is placing much confidence in the country’s justice system to ensure that his voice is heard. It is undoubtedly a costly affair with PAS having resorted to asking its members to contribute towards funding the case. Adding insult to injury Sarawak Report has rashly accused the party of receiving ill-gotten money to fund its case. It would be unwise to underestimate PAS supporters, who are possibly eager to lend their help to Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi in his pursuit to clear his marred reputation.
Thus far, the High Court in London has ruled in Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi’s favour with the case now set to be heard in a Civil Court. The High Court has also instructed Brown to pay an indemnity in the amount of £15,000. It is evident that the unexpected High Court’s decision has truly disappointed Brown, who has taken to her website to vent out her frustration. Notably Brown had questioned the presence of Malaysian embassy officials during the High Court hearing and verbally assailing them for carrying out their duties. It is actually a standard practice for any embassy to have their representatives attend court hearings involving their citizens. So incense is Brown that their mere presence is perceived as evidence of some form of collusion against her. Does she not have faith in the UK justice system? Or is Brown worried that another unfavourable verdict could possibly make readers wary of all the claims she has been making in her news website all this while. Only time will tell.