The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad was ordered by the High Court here today to pay compensatory damages of RM100,000 to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim over a defamatory article titled "Anwar''s Link To US Lobbyist".
Judicial Commissioner Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal held that the article, published in the News Straits Times newspaper on March 2, 2002, was defamatory to Anwar as it implied the former deputy prime minister was a person with no integrity, dishonest, corrupt and an untrustworthy leader and politician.
"The sting of these statements was to show that the plaintiff (Anwar) had abused his political position for personal gain.
"It is safe to conclude that the effects of the article would certainly lower the plaintiff in the estimation of ordinary, right-thinking members of Malaysian society. There would certainly be some degree of hatred, contempt or ridicule," Justice Harmindar said when reading out is 45-page written judgement.
On July 4, 2003, Anwar filed the suit against the defendants claiming that the article was defamatory of him and sought general damages of RM100 million, exemplary and aggravated damages, interest and costs.
**********************Anwar's link to US lobbyist************************
A US magazine's investigation into Washington D.C. lobbyist Douglas H.Paal is throwing new light on an American think-tank linked closely toformer Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
In an article entitled "The Bush Administration's dubious envoy toTaiwan" in its March 4 issue, the respected political weekly magazine NewRepublic delves into Paal's political standing in Washington and thepurpose of the Asia Pacific Policy Centre (APPC), which he founded in1993.
The APPC organised four high-powered Pacific Dialogues between US andMalaysian politicians and businessmen in Kuala Lumpur in the mid to late1990s. A fifth dialogue was cancelled after Anwar was removed as DeputyPrime Minister.
According to 1999 news reports carried by local media, the dialogueswere co-sponsored by the Institute of Policy Research, a known Anwarthink-tank, and the Institute of Strategic and International Studies.Anwar was also listed on the APPC's website as the dialogues' patron.
In June of 1999, the APPC took part in a US Congressional Sub-Committeehearing on Malaysia in Washington D.C., where Paal recommended to membersof Congress that the US maintain a "correct but cool relationship" withthe Malaysian Government.
During his testimony, Paal said his interest in Malaysia had been"deepened further by the magnetic personality of former Deputy PrimeMinister Anwar Ibrahim ... Anwar became a good friend, as well as a benignface for Malaysia to the outside world."
In October of that year, local media also reported allegations by formerBank Negara assistant governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid of financial linksbetweeen Anwar and the APPC. Paal, who is rumoured to be the next de factoUS ambassador to Taiwan, was an acknowledged insider in the first Bushadministration as the President's East Asia and China policy adviser.
According to New Republic's article, the long delay in giving Paal adiplomatic role in the new Bush administration was due in part toquestions about the APPC's role.
The article said: "Over time, people in Paal's East Asia policy circlesbegan to wonder whether the APPC might not be quite what it appeared.
Although the centre had a big budget and post offices in downtownWashington, it appeared to do few things that think tanks normally do: Itpublished no studies; it issued no public reports or opinion briefs; andit hosted no conferences - at least none that were open to the public."
Former employees described the centre as a combination of a think-tankand consulting firm, with a tight emphasis on fees for every servicerendered.
Paal allegedly used his connections to lobby for the interests of hisclients with important people in Congress for money, all under the guiseof operating a publicly subsidised, non-profit and educationalinstitution.
The APPC's board of directors was another source of mystery: when NewRepublic contacted the four people listed as APPC directors in thecentre's tax filings, only one of them, former Ambassador to SingaporeRobert D. Orr, was aware of his status as director.
Bigger questions swirled around APPC's funding, which was largelybelieved to have come from foreign governments and corporations.
The exact details of the centre's funding remains unknown as the APPCwas not required by law to disclose its funding sources, and Paal did notanswer to New Republic's repeated requests for an interview.
But the centre's 2000 tax filing revealed that the bulk of theUS$166,000 (RM631,000) it raised that year came from foreign sources,including the Embassy of Singapore, a Japanese company called MitsuiMarine Insurance and the Japan External Trade Organisation.
Under US law, individuals who represent or act on behalf of foreignentities must register with the US Justice Department as foreign agents,which Paal neglected to do.
"The foreign relationships that have raised the most questionsconcerning the APPC, however, involved political and business elites inMalaysia," the article said.
Paal's associate and APPC co-founder Anthony Stout was described in thearticle as "a storied Washington lobbyist cum entrepreneur with areputation for running through other people's money in sometimessuccessful, more often disastrous, ventures.
The article alleged that Stout was interested in gaining access toMalaysia's Employees Provident Fund (EPF).
"Stout was lobbying Malaysians officials to open the fund to investmentoutside the country and, hopefully, to give him authority to manage one ofthe accounts," it said, adding that Stout was also looking to gain accessto business opportunities with Malaysia's top Chinese businessmen.
The Pacific Dialogues between US and Malaysian government officials andbusiness raised eyebrows for their secretive nature.
"Like the rest of the APPC's work, the Dialogues were conducted in anatmosphere of exclusivity and secrecy.
"According to the then-US ambassador John Malott, Paal not only barredthe Press from covering them; he even barred Malott himself from attending- something another senior American diplomat called `unbelievable'."
The article noted that within Malaysia, it was widely believed that theconferences were used by Anwar to boost his image in Washington, aperception shared by officials within the US Congress itself.
A senior Senate Foreign Relations officer was quoted as saying: "Theywere co-hosted by Anwar Ibrahim. It was no secret that the Government ofMalaysia was funding (these events)."
In Oct 1999, Abdul Murad made a statutory declaration in which he made aseries of allegations about financial links between Anwar and the APPC.
He said Anwar had insisted that the APPC manage Bank Negara's reservesof RM50 billion and the EPF.
Alternatively, a fee of US$3 million was to be paid annually to the APPCfor the cost of running the centre.
Abdul Murad also said that he had arranged US$10 million incontributions to the APPC and Paal under Anwar's instructions, and thatAnwar's business associates had also donated money to Paal and the centre.
"Although I cannot ascertain the exact quantum of their contributions,"he said in his declaration, "I am convinced they ran into millions of USdollars."
APPC and Douglas H. Paal are one of the main vehicles used by AnwarIbrahim to promote his image in the Western countries, mainly inWashington, USA and the UK and other European nations.
APPC also lobbied strongly for Anwar Ibrahim with the internationalmedia organisations."
The article noted that a planned fifth Pacific Dialogue was cancelledafter Anwar was removed as Deputy Prime Minister, a development that,"clearly helped bring the APPC's high-flying days to an abrupt end."
Any constructive criticism and comment that would contribute to fair, frank and informed discussion on this posting to help achieve our national objective will be most appreciated. We need to have more open exchange of ideas on this sensitive but important subject in the context of the national vision and security.