By Ida Lim
KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 — In just one week, tens of thousands of Malaysians rallied around the DAP’s Tony Pua and donated RM143,256, nearly three-fourths of the RM200,000 in damages he owed water company Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) after losing a defamation lawsuit last month.
The opposition party had started an online campaign to raise RM100,000 to help the federal lawmaker pay the amount by July 16, but the financial support from the public was beyond expectation.
“As at 4pm 13/7/12 (Fri), the online donation campaign has raised RM143,256, a remarkable achievement of small contributions from tens of thousands of Malaysians in less than a week,” Pua wrote on his Facebook page this morning.
He also said that the party “will end the online fund-raiser today.”
Last month, Syabas had won a defamation suit against the DAP national publicity secretary, who was ordered to pay RM200,000 in damages besides costs and interests.
Although Pua has filed an appeal against the decision, he had said on micro-blogging site Twitter that Syabas wants him to pay the RM200,000 by July 16.
He has also said today that Syabas was seeking an additional RM80,000 in costs, but the amount is still under negotiations.
The “RM1 for Water Rights: 100,000 Malaysians Support Tony Pua vs Syabas” campaign started last Saturday, appealed to member of the public to donate RM1 each through online banking or to a special bank account set up for this purpose.
When asked the donors were, Pua told The Malaysian Insider: “The masses really. If you look at the hundreds of comments on all the fund-raising posts on my Facebook and DAP Facebook — they donated anything from RM1, RM5, RM10. All as a mark of public support.”
Some donors who engaged Pua on Twitter indicated that they gave amounts of between RM50 and RM100.
He said the more funds will be raised through the “nearly sold out” dinner on July 17, where there will be “just over 100 tables” with most of the tables going at RM1,000 each and the rest priced at RM3,000 each.
“Any excess funds from the collection will go into the DAP General Election Fund,” Pua wrote on Facebook.
In the court case filed on January 28 last year, Syabas claimed that Pua had caused Nanyang Siang Pau’s Metro edition to publish statements that defamed it in a November 16, 2010 article, titled “Tony Pua: Selangor government must have water rights to prevent rate hike”.
In its statement of claim, Syabas said the article implied that it was incompetent in managing water supply rights given its inability to repay its debts and to replace water pipes.
In the offending article, Pua was quoted as saying that if the water concessionaires could not settle their debts, the state government should take over water supply management in Selangor.
The Pakatan Rakyat Selangor administration has tussled with private water concessionaires, urging that water rights be transferred to the state to enable it to continue its free water scheme and head off tariff hikes.
It currently writes off the first 20 cubic metres used by some four million consumers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.