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Bangi MP says will not apologise after defamation notice from Limkokwing’s senior VP over corruption allegations

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DAP's Ong Kian Ming said that a notice of demand was served to him via his party’s headquarters, on September 4, which was issued by the lawyers for Datuk Gail Phung, the senior vice president of LCUT, demanding damages in a sum of RM50 million. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
DAP’s Ong Kian Ming said that a notice of demand was served to him via his party’s headquarters, on September 4, which was issued by the lawyers for Datuk Gail Phung, the senior vice president of LCUT, demanding damages in a sum of RM50 million. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming today said that he would not apologise for his statement against LimKokWing University of Creative Technology (LUCT), where he questioned the institution’s alleged involvement in purportedly corrupt dealings in Sierra Leone.

In a statement today, the DAP lawmaker said that a notice of demand was served to him via his party’s headquarters, on September 4, which was issued by the lawyers for Datuk Gail Phung, the senior vice president of LCUT, demanding damages in a sum of RM50 million.

“This notice purports that I have retweeted a defamatory tweet against Datuk Gail Phung. Amongst others, the said notice demands that I pay the sum of RM50 million to Datuk Gail Phung purportedly for compensation and damages.

“This appears to be a case of intimidation on the part of a senior executive of LCUT against a Member of Parliament who is raising a legitimate public interest issue. The accusation of corruption in the case of LCUT’s operations in Sierra Leone was a subject of an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in that country and has been widely reported in the press in that country,” Ong said.

He added that any accusations of corruption against the founder and senior management of a well-known Malaysian university overseas will have a serious impact on the branding of Malaysian universities in other countries as well.

He also stressed that it was his right and obligation as a lawmaker, to raise such issues to government officials, he said, referring to him tagging the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), and its minister, Datuk Noraini Ahmad, on Twitter.

On August 6, Ong had retweeted a post from a social media user, @IamTheAdeline, who had shared an article on a probe by Sierra Leone government into LUCT, remarking that “these are very serious accusations against Limkowwing (LUCT)’s activities in Sierra Leone. This is not the first time this issue has been reported”.

“I was not agreeing or disagreeing with the tweet by @IamTheAdeline which I referenced in my tweet. I was referencing the tweet by @IamTheAdeline to give context to the accusations raised so that the relevant authorities in Malaysia can be made aware of this case and conduct the necessary investigations.

“As far as I know, this is the first time that a party in Malaysia has tried to take legal action against a Member of Parliament over a tweet/retweet involving a legitimate public interest issue.

“I will not issue any public apologies over my tweets and public statements with regards to LCUT and their senior management as I firmly believe that the issues I have raised are a matter of public interest and consistent with my role as a Member of Parliament who has spoken and written consistently on matters to do with Higher Education. I definitely will not be paying ‘compensation’ of RM50 million to Datuk Gail Phang purportedly for my public statements and tweets on this matter,” Ong added.

The former Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry stressed that he would continue to highlight issues regarding LUCT, that are deemed public interest and that may affect the reputation of the higher education landscape in Malaysia.

Ong said that he has also instructed his lawyer Syahredzan Johan to reply to the notice of demand issued to him.

On August 8, Malaysiakini reported that Sierra Leone’s ACC had ended a probe involving LUCT, and had reportedly confirmed that the country’s former education, science and technology minister Minkailu Bah, had enabled LUCT’s campus to be set up without following due processes.

According to the probe report mentioned by Malaysiakini a key requirement in the memorandum of agreement (MOA) was that the Sierra Leone government would provide campus space for the LUCT’ and scholarships for 1,200 students annually.

The report stated that the ACC also found that the Sierra Leone government owes US$3 million to LUCT, US$2 million of which were revenues for one academic year and were paid in 2018.

It reportedly claimed that the sum was a “huge variance,” although the number of students enrolled at LUCT’s Freetown campus could not be confirmed.  

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