Court: No need for NSTP to reveal information to lawyer


PUTRAJAYA: Lawyer Americk Sidhu again failed to compel the New Straits Times Press to reveal key information, including its editorial policy, to be used in his defamation suit against it.

A three-man Court of Appeal bench chaired by Rohana Yusuf said it did not find merit in the issue raised by Americk.

“We dismiss the appeal with costs and affirm the High Court ruling,” Rohana said.

The Umno-linked New Straits Times Press Bhd, represented by Claudia Cheah Pek Yee, was allowed RM10,000 in costs.

Americk, a lawyer for late private investigator P Balasubramaniam, last year filed a defamation suit against NSTP over an article titled “PI widow issues public apology to Najib, Rosmah”.

The suit will be heard for three days from June 19.

Balasubramaniam became the centre of attention when he first made a statutory declaration (SD) in July 2009, claiming Prime Minister Najib Razak was involved in the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28, in October 2006.

The following day, he made another declaration to retract the first SD.

Balasubramaniam died of heart complications on March 15, 2013, soon after he and his family returned from self-imposed exile in India.

In the article published by the New Sunday Times on March 13 last year, A Santamil Selvi was reported as saying that she publicly apologised to Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor for alleging they were involved in the murder of Altantuya.

Santamil had also said in a statement that certain parties who had promised her family financial aid had reneged on the promise.

The widow of Balasubramaniam said she had received calls from Kapar MP G Manivanan, Subang MP R Sivarasa and Americk, who promised her help if she agreed to be interviewed by an Australian reporter.

Americk said the report in the newspaper gave the impression that he had the tendency to conspire with others to make false allegations against the prime minster, had misconducted himself and was unfit to be a lawyer.

He said the article, in its ordinary meaning, gave the impression he was sowing hatred towards the government and the prime minister through dissemination of false news.

Americk said the report painted him as being guilty of a criminal act and a dishonourable person.

NSTP in its defence pleaded that the article was published in good faith and that it had practised responsible journalism.

It said the report was fair and accurate and published on grounds of public interest.

However, Americk asked the publisher to furnish information on whether the editorial policy of the daily (NST) and weekend (New Sunday Times) editions were designed to produce articles in favour of Najib and Rosmah.

He also wanted the publisher to divulge who in Umno controlled the publications, directly and indirectly.

Americk also wanted the editor-in-chief of the publications or a director of the publisher’s company to reply to his questions.

On Aug 28 last year, High Court judge Roslan Abu Bakar dismissed Americk’s application.

Today before the Court of Appeal, Americk’s counsel Gopal Sri Ram submitted that the information sought was relevant and the issues pleaded would save time and costs in the main case.

“My client would have discharged his burden by destroying the opponent’s case in this pre-trial discovery if the defendant had admitted to the information asked,” he said.

Cheah said Americk’s application was unnecessary, frivolous and a waste of time.

“He has failed to show the irreparable damage caused to his suit when the publisher declined to deliver answers to the questions,” she said.