KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has applied to strike out an abuse of power lawsuit filed by predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and two others against him over the investigation into corruption-tainted state investment fund 1MDB.
Mahathir and two local officials of the ruling party Umno had last year sued Najib for alleged abuse of power to obstruct investigation into the 1MDB issue, involving the remittance of RM2.6 billion and RM42 million into Najib's personal accounts, among others.
Mahathir and the other two plaintiffs are seeking exemplary and aggravated damages of RM2.6 billion and RM42 million, respectively, among other reliefs sought.
Najib's lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun said on Monday (Feb 20) the defence team led by Tan Sri Cecil Abraham argued that Najib is not a public officer in his capacity as the Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
Speaking to reporters after proceedings in chambers on Monday, Mohd Hafarizam said Najib's legal team argued that Malaysian law clearly stated that Najib is a not a public officer under the definitions laid out in the Federal Constitution and the Interpretation Act.
"The defendant is not a public officer, and that is the first ingredient for misfeasance which states that the person in question must be a public officer in public office," said Mohd Hafarizam.
He said Najib's legal team has submitted that Najib is a member of administration and that Article 160 (2) of the Federal Constitution excluded members of administration from being in the public service.
Mohd Hafarizam added that Najib's legal team has argued that the plaintiffs were confusing the two distinct and separate concepts of "public servant and "public officer."
He said their reliance on Section 66 of the Interpretation Act and Section 3 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act to justify the definition of "public officer" are "misconceived".
Mohd Hafarizam also said the suit should be struck out as it lacked particulars of how Najib used his powers to cause injury to the plaintiffs.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs' lead counsel Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, however, said his clients have an arguable case as it is sufficient to show that losses were suffered by citizens due to Najib's acts in his personal interest.
High Court judge Abu Bakar Jais reserved his decision on Najib's application to another date to be fixed later.
In the lawsuit filed last March, Dr Mahathir and two others want the High Court to order the Prime Minister to pay RM2.6bil in exemplary damages to the Government.
Dr Mahathir, former Batu Kawan Umno division vice-chief Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan and former Langkawi Wanita Umno member Anina Saadudin also want Najib to pay RM42mil in aggravated damages to the Government.
Among others, they are seeking to declare that Najib has committed misfeasance in public office and breach of fiduciaries in public office by using his position as the Prime Minister, chairman of Barisan Nasional and Umno president.