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Lynas: Bid to gag FMT, activists fails

 | May 2, 2012

The High Court has fixed May 9 for case filing of all relevant documents.

KUALA LUMPUR: An attempt by Australian rare earth miner Lynas to obtain court injunctions against pressure group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) and news portal FMT from releasing “more defamatory material” hit a stumbling block today.

High Court judge John Louis O’Hara this afternoon allowed an application by SMSL to have the injunction heard in an inter-parte (between the parties) basis, instead of being heard ex-parte (by one party), according to SMSL lawyers.

O’Hara has fixed May 9 for case management for filing of all relevant documents. The actual hearing of the injunction, as well as the main defamation suit, will be decided later.

“As far as we’re concerned, the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, so today we asked the court that we should also be heard first before it decides to bar us from speaking. This concerns our right to be heard,” lead counsel for SMSL, Bastian Pius Vendargon, told reporters here after proceedings in chambers.

Vendragon said that SMSL lawyers – which include Pahang Bar Council chairman Hon Kai Ping, R S Pani and Gene Anand Vendargon – had only found out about the ex-parte hearing by chance on Monday as no documents have been served upon his clients.

“We found out when we were going through the court list on Monday and we immediately made preparations to turn up today to stop this ex-parte hearing from going through,” said Bastian.

It is understood that FMT, whose legal representative was not present today, has not received any documents from Lynas as well.

Bastian said that the suit will most likely be heard jointly though he added he cannot speak on behalf of FMT, which is not his client.

“This is also a special case in which it concerns and involves the public, and my clients are acting not only for themselves but on behalf of the public, who fear for their life and property in this matter,” he added.

“If you want to take a bulldozer and flatten my house, you should get an injunction, but in this case, an injunction will interfere with our freedom of speech,” Bastian said.

A busload of support

It is also learnt today that Lynas, which is represented by lawyers Rishwant Singh and Jeff Leong, intends to add in three additional individuals in its defamation suit against SMSL.

In the main suit, filed on April 19, plaintiffs Lynas Corporation Ltd and Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd are suing SMSL Sdn Bhd, its chairman Tan Bun Teet, and Lim Sow Teow, for defamation. Both are shareholders and directors of the SMSL company.

Lynas said that an article entitled “Civil Society Organisations joint statement on Lynas issue: SMSL & NGOs statement against Lynas” dated March 22 contained statements that were “false”, “damaging” and “defamatory”.

In the suit against FMT’s company, M Today News Sdn Bhd, Lynas claims that the article “Lynas Must Go” dated March 6 also contained “false”, “damaging”, and “defamatory” statements.

For both suits, Lynas is seeking general damages, exemplary damages and aggravated damages, costs and interests as well as other reliefs deemed fit by the court.

Lynas is asking for an injunction to stop both defendants from publishing defamatory statements or articles until the decision of the trial.

Meanwhile, a busload of Kuantan residents and supporters turned up in court to show support to SMSL. They staged a short protest outside the court, holding up placards and shouting “stop Lynas!”

The placards read “Lynas you sue us we sue you back”;”Defamation= open+honest communication?”.

Addressing the media, Tan said: “As a citizen’s and civil society group, we have every right under the Malaysian constitution to protect our family, our livelihoods, our environment and our country.”

“Lynas is taking advantage of Malaysia’s weak civil liberty law by using this defamation legal action to gag us,” Tan said, adding that Lynas would not be able to do this to its critics in Australia.

On April 20, Lynas had announced that it has commenced defamation proceedings at the High Court against FMT and SMSL for “false and misleading statements” which both had allegedly made.


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