PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today affirmed the RM350,000 in damages awarded to Seputeh MP Teresa Kok over her detention under the then Internal Security Act (ISA) nine years ago.
This follows the decision of a three-man bench chaired by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum to dismiss the government’s leave to appeal application.
“The law is settled,” Malanjum said in also awarding costs of RM10,000 to Kok.
Government lawyer Awang Armadajaya Awang Mahmud submitted there were two conflicting Federal Court decisions whether an objective or subjective test was to be used to determine an arrest and detention of a person.
“It is of public importance for the court to decide on the issue once and for all,” he added.
Awang Armadajaya said the Court of Appeal did not provide its reason why in Kok’s case it awarded RM150,000 in exemplary and aggravated damages.
Counsel S N Nair, urged the bench to dismiss the application as the court must apply the objective test that had been determined in the 2014 Allah case.
Malaysia’s highest court had then dismissed an attempt by Christians for the right to use the word Allah, ending a long legal battle that escalated religious tensions in the country.
Nair said the Court of Appeal had provided its reasons for awarding the exemplary and aggravated damages for the exceptional harm done to his client.
Kok thanked the judges for bringing the matter to closure and her lawyers for fighting the case over the last nine years.
“I am relieved and happy it is all over,” said Kok, who is also DAP national vice-chairman.
On July 26 last year, the Court of Appeal reversed the findings of the High Court, saying the trial judge erred in law when applying the wrong subjective test in the case.
“The High Court applied the wrong precedent that is no longer good law,” said Justice Varghese George who delivered the judgment.
The appellate court also found that the allegations, namely her involvement in an “azan” (religious prayers’ call) volume protest, petition on removing Jawi signage, the SMS directing her involvement, as well as a petition on not to have the “azan” played were “stale”.
“She was arrested in September but the allegations directed at her were during February that year.”
“There was no immediate action. The police did not act on her behaviour that claimed to be giving rise to a threat to the public. They only arrested her seven months later,” he said.
The court then ordered the government to pay RM200,000 in general damages and another RM150,000 in general, exemplary and aggravated damages. She was also awarded another RM70,000 in costs.
Kok filed the suit on March 13, 2009, claiming that she was not allowed to contact her relatives or lawyers when detained at her residence at Pearl Tower, OG Heights, on Sept 19, 2008.
She claimed she was denied her constitutional rights, suffered severe mental anguish and food poisoning.