Constitutional Law & Civil Rights

Pua allowed to appeal on whether PM is Public Officer

Date: 05 November 2018; Type: Legal News; Source: Bernama

PUTRAJAYA, Nov 5 (Bernama) - The Federal Court will hear and decide on the issue, whether the Prime Minister (PM) is a public officer or not. This follows the decision of a three-man bench to give the nod to Damansara Member of Parliament, Tony Pua Kiam Wee to appeal over his tort of misfeasance lawsuit against former prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and the government. Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, who chaired the bench, granted leave for appeal to Pua and allowed two legal questions framed by Pua's counsel for determination by the Federal Court.

The other question of law involves the definition of "public officer", whether its definition should be confined to what is stated in the Interpretation Act 1948 and the Federal Constitution.

The other judges on the bench were Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim and Federal Court judge Datuk Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin.

The High Court had struck out Pua's lawsuit against Najib and the government after it ruled that Najib was not an officer in public office, and hence he could not be sued for alleged misfeasance in public office in connection with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case.

The appellate court three-man bench upheld the High Court’s decision in April, this year after dismissing Pua's appeal.

The two questions are whether the prime minister or any minister is a public officer under Section 5 of the Government Proceedings Act 1956 for the purposes of the tort of misfeasance in public office, and whether a court, in determining if the prime minister or any minister is a public officer for the purposes of the tort of misfeasance in public office, is limited by the definition of "public officer" in Section 3 of the Interpretation Act 1948 (1957), read together with Article 132 and Article 160 of the Federal Constitution.

Pua sued Najib and the government for misfeasance in public office over the 1MDB issue and sought general, aggravated and exemplary damages, interest, cost and other relief deemed fit by the court.

He claimed that Najib was a public officer since he was the Pekan Member of Parliament, the prime minister then and chairman of the 1MDB board of advisors, and that in those capacities he had a direct or indirect role in the decisions and directions of 1MDB.

Najib's lawyer, Datuk Wira Mohd Hafarizam Harun notified the court regarding a similar case involving the issue of public officer filed by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad which is still pending for review in the Federal Court.

He also told the court that he supported the Court of Appeal's decision over the issue of public officer in Pua's case but noted that in the grounds of judgment of one of the Appeals Court judges, Datuk Yeo Wee Siam, she had hinted that it was timely that a clear definition of public officer be made.

Pua was represented by lawyers Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Tan Cheng Leong and Surendra Ananth. Senior federal counsel Alice Loke Yee Ching appeared for the government.

MY Bernama

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