KUALA LUMPUR: The press secretary to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad today told the High Court that former Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Tun Mahathir filed a suit against him merely to seek political sympathy from the people.
"I do not know and I do not understand but I believe it is an act merely to seek political sympathy from the people," he said in a witness statement which was submitted in a lawsuit filed by Mukhriz against him on the allegations of issuing two defamatory statements in April 2016.
Tengku Sariffuddin, 56, who served as Datuk Seri Najib's Press Secretary for 27 years said the media statement dated April 23, 2016 which was published on Facebook under the name "PMO Malaysia" was a comment and response on the political career of Mukhriz and not slandering him.
"I believe a sane reader will see that the statement was my comments and responses on the political journey of the plaintiff, namely, a statement that he did not have an ambition to become Prime Minister as reported in the South China Morning Post.
"In the statement, I did not say anything to insult and slander him (Mukhriz) or (state something) which can subject him to public ridicule," he said, adding that as a political leader, Mukhriz should not be too sensitive to analyses or opinions on his political developments.
Tengku Sariffuddin, as a defendent in the suit, explained that his statement only presented a view or political analysis on the direction of Mukhriz's political future based on the factors and processes Mukhriz passed through. Mukhriz is also Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia's (PPBM) deputy president.
Tengku Sariffuddin, who is an experienced journalist, said he did not accuse Mukhriz as willing to do anything to achieve his political ambition.
"I am also of the opinion that if a politician aspires to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia it is not being sarcastic but an aspiration or hope to contribute in a bigger way to the country if he or she receives the support of the majority of party members," he said announcing that he had never accused Mukhriz of being power crazy or willing to cheat in any media statement.
In connection with another media statement issued on April 26, 2016, Tengku Sariffuddin explained that it was not relevant and had had no connection with Mukhriz because it was intended for his father Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"I stated that although Mukhriz's name had been mentioned in the media statement but it did not refer and and was not relevant to him," said Tengku Sariffuddin who added that the statement was published in relation to issues which cropped up at that time.
Tengku Sariffuddin said that at the time there was a lot of accusations made by Dr Mahathir in his effort to achieve his political goals including by bad-mouthing Umno, the party's members and its president.
"To me, this is the political strategy that Dr Mahathir chooses to get support from the political party he has formed with other members. Therefore, my statements are responses to Dr Mahathir's attacks and propaganda," he said.
He said that as a senior officer in the Media Division of the Prime Minister's Office, he was responsible for correcting misinformation which were political attacks in nature so that the people understood the real situation.
He also noted that the media statements issued were analyses of the Malaysian political scene as a whole, since he held the position of Press Secretary in 1997.
Tengku Sariffuddin said he issued the media statements concerned intending them for the public's knowledge and interest and was responsible for enlightening the public on the political statements or actions made by certain parties aimed at marring the workings of a legitimate government.
Asked by lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, representing Mukhriz on Tengku Sariffuddin's statement which gave the impression that his client was too dependent on Dr Mahathir to be active in politics, Tengku Sariffuddin said: "I do not agree and it is up to the people to make personal assessment."
However, Tengku Sariffuddin, represented by lawyer Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos, agreed with Mohamed Haniff's suggestion that the two statements issued were based on his facts and opinions.
However, Tengku Sariffuddin failed to produce evidence of his facts and opinions when asked by the lawyer.
Asked by Mohamed Haniff whether it was the fact that Tengku Sariffuddin's statements were empty rhetoric, the latter confidently said 'I disagree'.
Tengku Sariffuddin would resume his testimony on March 15. The hearing of the case was heard before Justice Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim.
Mukhriz filed a suit on May 3, 2016 claiming that Tengku Sariffuddin had issued two defamatory statements against him in April, 2016.