Saifuddin: “Damage to Sanusi’s reputation due to his own poor governance”

DATUK Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor has only himself to blame for his tarnished reputation which can be attributed to poor governance and administrative malpractice during his tenure as Kedah Menteri Besar and Kedah Menteri Besar Incorporated (MBI) chairperson.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said this in his statement of defence against the PAS leader’s defamation suit over the alleged theft of rare earth elements (REE) and misuse of federal funds earmarked for road maintenance projects.

Last month, Sanusi had filed a lawsuit claiming the remarks had defamed him. He said the statements had tarnished his reputation as a political leader, adding that he had suffered emotional stress as the allegations were “baseless”.

“With respect to Sanusi’s reputation, which he claims to have been tarnished, Saifuddin contends that Sanusi’s reputation has certainly been compromised, lowered and put to ridicule,” Saifuddin contended in the statement of defence filed at the Alor Setar High Court on Sept 14.

As for the alleged misappropriation of federal funds, Saifuddin had described the transfer of RM1.6 bil of funds for the the Malaysian Road Records Information System (MARRIS) to Kedah’s development fund a “improper and irregular from a legal and financial governance perspective”.

He contended that MARRIS funds were meant to be used for maintenance of state roads.

“State governments should prioritise proper financial governance to enhance the economy and serve the best interests of the public,” Saifuddin noted.

“This includes prudent fiscal responsibility to ensure public-related funds, such as the MARRIS funds, are used in accordance with financial regulations and its intended purpose.

“All of these suggest that Sanusi may be perceived as a weak leader, lacking essential leadership qualities required to effectively govern a state.”

Addressing his July 15 remarks over the alleged REE theft, Saifuddin said the state government’s agency, Kedah MBI, had been slapped with a RM500,000 compound notice under the National Land Code in October last year.

“The defendant (Saifuddin) wanted the plaintiff to clarify if he (Sanusi) received a letter from the state director of lands and mines in respect of an incident of theft concerning REE at Kampung Chong, Sik,” he said.

Saifuddin further contended that there were governance-related issues and concerns regarding administrative malpractices within the management of Kedah’s natural resources, and in particular the REE.

He also said Sanusi had not suffered any loss as a result of the statements, and is, therefore, not entitled to damages.

“This is evident from his success in retaining the Jeneri state seat in the (Aug 12 Kedah) election with a majority of more than 16,000 votes, as well as being sworn in again as the menteri besar and retaining his chairmanship of Kedah MBI,” he added.

Public interest

Meanwhile, Saifuddin also cited the defence of justification (ready to prove the truth of an allegation in court), fair comment (whereby his speech was made in the public interest, thus, the public has the right to obtain information on such public interest matters) and qualified privilege (a situation where the words are issued by a person who has an interest, or a legal, social, or moral duty to do so).

On Aug 3, Sanusi filed the lawsuit against Saifuddin, demanding the defendant pay unspecified general, aggravated and exemplary damages.

The plaintiff’s civil action is over Saifuddin’s statements made on two occasions – during a press conference at a Home Ministry event at the Penang contingent police headquarters on July 14, and a speech during a Jelajah Perpaduan Madani programme at Guar Chempedak, Yan, Kedah, on July 15.

The July 14 statement was regarding MARRIS funding while the July 15 remarks were over the alleged REE theft.

According to the statement of claim, Sanusi alleged both statements tainted his public reputation as a politician, triggered public negative perception of him as a political figure who implements Islamic principles in the Kedah state administration, and disturbed his focus on his daily duties as state menteri besar.

Sanusi claimed the statements were maliciously made in light of the state elections in Kedah and five other states on Aug 12.

Through the civil action, the plaintiff also seeks the defendant to make a public apology in local newspapers, as well as online news portals and satellite broadcast television stations. – Sept 19, 2023

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