POLICE are investigating prominent lawyer and social activist Ambiga Sreenevasan under a rarely used section of the Penal Code, alleging that she has caused public alarm in relation to a defamation suit filed by PAS against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown.
The decision of Malaysian police to move against the respected former Bar Council president has raised eyebrows, given that the court case is being fought in the UK.
Ambiga is being investigated for allegedly providing information to Rewcastle-Brown on senior PAS leaders having received large sums of money from Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Rewcastle-Brown has named Ambiga as her source of information in alleging that top leaders in the Islamist party had received money from Najib.
The Malaysian Insight learnt that police began their investigations after a report was lodged by Umno Grassroots Movement chairman Zulkarnain Mahdar at the Sri Petaling police station on November 1.
Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun has confirmed that investigations are being conducted against Ambiga.
Ambiga is being investigated under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act 1998 for causing public alarm.
Section 505(b) is for those who make, publish or circulate any statement, rumour or report with the intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the state or against public tranquility.
If convicted, the offender faces a maximum two years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both.
According to Rewcastle-Brown’s defence and counterclaim statement seen by The Malaysian Insight, she said she had spoken to Ambiga in July last year regarding Najib, state investor fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad and PAS.
“Ambiga had told the defendant that her sources, whom she said were reliable, estimated the amount that had been paid was around RM90 million,” said Rewcastle-Brown in her court filing dated October 11.
Rewcastle-Brown said she published parts of her conversation with Ambiga in good faith as a political commentary on a matter of public interest.
Earlier this week, police had recorded statements from journalists who reported on Rewcastle-Brown’s counterclaim statement.
Rewcastle-Brown’s defence was filed in relation to PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s defamation suit against her in April this year.
In his suit, Hadi claimed that he had been defamed in a Sarawak Report article, titled “As Najib denies all over 1MDB let’s not forget his many other criminal connections”, published on August 6 last year.
The article suggested that money was given in exchange for PAS’ support for Barisan Nasional.
In her counterclaim, Rewcastle-Brown said the claimant had provided or aided two blogs, including the Raja Petra Kamarudin-run Malaysia Today, for them to run articles to harass her.
“The harassment has caused the defendant (Rewcastle-Brown) severe stress, anxiety and distress, for which she claims damages.”
Rewcastle-Brown also applied for an injunction to stop Hadi from further harassing her.
Ambiga has declined to comment on allegations that she was the source to Rewcastle-Brown, saying she was unable to comment on court proceedings in the UK.