PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle Brown has alleged that Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), through an intermediary, paid the whistleblowing site more than RM1.4 million (S$464,000) for an out-of-court settlement of their president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang's libel suit against her.
"Sarawak Report can confirm that towards the end of last year, it was approached with an offer for an out-of-court settlement by PAS through an intermediary, who is a known supporter of the party and who took part in the original decision to sue this site.
"There were extensive negotiations with the intermediary, of which Sarawak Report has a record, which were relayed to Hadi and his agents in PAS who were involved in the case.
"London solicitors Carter Ruck have confirmed they were initially engaged both by Abdul Hadi and by PAS over this case.
"Eventually, Abdul Hadi and his advisors in PAS agreed with Sarawak Report on terms that included this payment, at which point the intermediary, a lawyer, and another PAS supporter visited Sarawak Report's Kuala Lumpur lawyer on January 24 to finalise the terms," Ms Rewcastle Brown said on the Sarawak Report site on Thursday (Feb 28).
Sarawak Report also published what it said was the terms of the out-of-court agreement document, a cheque in the name of Americk Sidhu - the Sarawak Report's Kuala Lumpur lawyer - and a cover letter to Malayan Banking Bhd to transfer the funds to Ms Rewcastle Brown's bank account in London.
Ms Rewcastle Brown also claimed that the PAS intermediaries had initially indicated that it wanted to pay the sum in cash, but Sarawak Report's lawyer refused a cash payment and instead accepted a post-dated cheque for Jan 31.
"The recent public statements are once again misleading Malaysians into an understanding that Sarawak Report was not paid and itself backed down from defending its position, which is untrue.
"In the process they have broken the terms of an agreement that they themselves imposed not to discuss the terms of the settlement, and therefore Sarawak Report is entitled to reveal the truth to the Malaysian public and hopes this will draw a line under the affair," she said.
Earlier, PAS secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said he had documents to rebut Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's claims about a RM1.4 million settlement between Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi and Ms Rewcastle Brown.
The Sarawak Report's revelation on the sum, however, tally with what Datuk Seri Anwar revealed.
Ms Rewcastle Brown claimed that Mr Abdul Hadi should not have discussed details of the settlement payment with a party member, adding that it was "a flagrant and repudiatory breach of the confidentiality agreement, which is particularly egregious as it is untrue".
Hence, she said Sarawak Report was now entitled to "consider itself released from confidentiality also" in order to tell the truth to the public.
"There are no documents 'proving Sarawak Report was not paid'; on the contrary, there is copious evidence showing we were paid by agents of Abdul Hadi to allow him to withdraw his claim," she said.
In 2017, Mr Abdul Hadi sued Ms Rewcastle Brown for libel in London over an August 2016 Sarawak Report article alleging that PAS received RM90 million to guarantee its support for Umno and Barisan Nasional.
She filed a counterclaim in October 2017.
On Feb 1, Mr Abdul Hadi and Ms Rewcastle Brown had settle the case through an out-of-court settlement.