KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 19): Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has filed a defamation suit against Umno president and former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, over the latter's remark in questioning the the former prime minister's purported "kutty" ancestry.
Mahathir, who is the Langkawi Member of Parliament, said Ahmad Zahid had made the “kutty” remarks in questioning the former premier's ancestry at an Umno Kelana Jaya divisional meeting in July 2017, and again in July last year.
The two time former premier filed the suit via Messrs Haidir & Co last July 20, at the High Court here, where the documents were obtained via a file search.
In the statement of claim, Mahathir alleged that Ahmad Zahid's statement was done in malice, defamatory and with the intention of having the people hate him.
Mahathir said his late father Mohamad Iskandar, is a Malay who hails from Penang but whose ancestors came from Kerala, India while his mother Wan Tempawan Wan Hanapi, is a Malay who hails from Kedah.
He said Ahmad Zahid's defamatory statement in its natural and ordinary meaning meant that he was not born as a Malay and that his original name was Mahathir a/l (son of) Iskandar Kutty, that he had used the Malays when he was the PM to get political and personal gain, that he was ashamed that his ancestors have Indian blood and that he had a skewed view about the Indian community.
Mahathir also complained that the words questioning his ancestry also meant that he is a liar, his leadership for the advancement of the Malays is questioned, he is unethical when holding public positions, and not capable of being a leader.
The 97-year-old veteran reiterated that Ahmad Zahid's intention was with malice and his intention was out to disparage the Langkawi MP's reputation, and resulted in personal attacks to be made against him and gave the impression that he was dishonest and irresponsible.
He added that his lawyers had issued a notice of demand against Ahmad Zahid last June but in his reply the former deputy prime minister had outrightly rejected the notice and pleaded justification and fair comment.
“In my opinion, such defences of justification and fair comment are without merit and will fail,” he said, adding that he also filed two tape recordings containing the video of the purported events.
Hence, the former premier is seeking general, exemplary and aggravated damages from Ahmad Zahid and an injunction barring him or his agents in repeating or making such claims.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Zahid filed his defence on Wednesday (Aug 17) through Messrs Shahrul Hamidi & Haziq where he categorically denied making the statement in July 2017 and put the burden of proof on Mahathir to prove it.
He maintained that what he said was that “Mahathir anak lelaki Iskandar Kutty” is an individual based on information he obtained from an old identity card.
“The plaintiff (Mahathir) is free to pursue any grievance that he has,” the Umno president added.
Ahmad Zahid said what he said in 2017 was not specifically referred to Mahathir as the name is based on an old identity card.
He said if Mahathir considers the words had referred to him (Mahathir) it was due to his actions to attack and affect Umno's reputation who comprise the Malays.
The Umno president further questioned that had Mahathir been affected by what had been said, the former PM should have filed the suit earlier.
He further denied that the comments made were defamatory in nature and pleaded the defence of justification and fair comment.
Ahmad Zahid also referred to Mahathir's book “A doctor in the house : Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad” where the 97-year-old admitted that his ancestors were from Southern India.
He further alleged that it was Mahathir first who had attacked, denigrated and degraded Umno in 2016, and that he was merely responding to those attacks as the then party vice-president.
Ahmad Zahid denied that such statements had not affected Mahathir's reputation as the former premier won Langkawi.
He further added hence, the former premier is not entitled to general, aggravated and exemplary damages and the injunction sought as it is against the freedom of expression.
Furthermore, Ahmad Zahid sought the court to strike out Mahathir's suit with costs.
Prior to this Ahmad Zahid had also filed a defamation suit against Mahathir for alleging that the Umno president had sought his help with his ongoing court cases.
Last May, Mahathir had said he was considering suing Ahmad Zahid over the remarks made.
Following case management before High Court deputy registrar Nor Afidah Idris on Friday, Nor Afidah directed Mahathir to file a reply to Ahmad Zahid's defence by Sept 8, and fixed Sept 13 as the next case management date.
She also instructed that any interlocutory application should be filed before the next date.
Counsel Mior Nor Haidir Suhaimi appeared for Mahathir.