KUALA LUMPUR (July 13): Controversial Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik has contended that the article at the crux of his second civil suit against Penang deputy chief minister Dr P Ramasamy, which referred to his supporters, also included him.
Responding to Ramasamy's counsel Ragunath Kesavan during cross-examination on Wednesday (July 13) at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, Zakir said he had about 15 million followers and insisted that in certain context when his supporters are mentioned, it would directly reference him as well.
Ragunath: You have in excess of 15 million supporters.
Ragunath: Are you saying when (someone) mentions supporters, it includes you?
Zakir: It depends on the context.
Ragunath: In this context, it includes you?
The second suit filed in Dec, 2019 revolves around an article by The Malaysian Insight titled "DAP leader accuses Zakir camp of 'faking' Tamil Tigers revival".
In the article published on Nov 8, 2019. Ramasamy accused Zakir Naik's supporters of creating "fake news" about the revival of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Malaysia to divert attention from India's bid to extradite him on charges of money-laundering.
Ramasamy's comments were in relation to the arrest of 12 Malaysians in October 2019, who were charged with supporting the LTTE. These charges were subsequently dropped in Feb 2020 by then Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas.
The Sri Lanka-based LTTE is a separatist group which has been defunct for more than a decade now.
Ragunath then went on to highlight allegations that some of the perpetrators in 2016's terrorist attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh, were followers of the controversial preacher.
Twenty hostages were reportedly killed in the attack and Zakir had publicly denounced the terrorist act.
However, the India-born preacher, who is a Malaysian permanent resident, agreed with Ragunath that he had no control over the conduct of his supporters.
Ragunath: Of course you said it has nothing to do with you.
Ragunath: You have no control or influence over all your supporters? You have no control or influence over how they conduct themselves?
Ragunath had walked through specific paragraphs in the article which Zakir claimed to be defamatory. Zakir however, insisted that the entire article was defamatory, but he only settled on the main points for the suit.
Zakir also disagreed that Ramasamy in his position as a public figure had the authority to make statements in the interest of the public.
Ragunath: The defendant is the deputy chief minister. He is also an elected state assemblyman. He is entitled to make statements of public interest.
Zakir: I disagree.
In the present suit, Zakir claims that the statements were "actuated with malice and envy" to defame him, a famous "Muslim religious personality".
Furthermore, by issuing such statements, it indicated that the preacher was a person of bad character and is a threat to Malaysia's national security, peace, and harmony.
He also claimed that the statements have been "twisted and slanted" to meet Ramasamy's agenda and that such statements could incite public hatred against Zakir.
Among others, Zakir is seeking aggravated, exemplary damages as assessed by the Court, and a mandatory and permanent order preventing Ramasamy from publishing any defamatory statement against him.
Zakir's first suit against Ramasamy pertains to four alleged defamatory statements issued between 2016 to 2019, which he claims damaged his "mission of peace" as an Islamic preacher.
Both suits are being heard jointly before Justice Hayatul Akmal Abdul Aziz.
The trial continues on Thursday.