GEORGE TOWN: The New Straits Times Press (NSTP) has paid Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Deputy CM II P Ramasamy RM450,000 in damages and costs after the newspaper company dropped an appeal at the apex court recently over a 2013 defamation lawsuit.
Lim’s special legal officer Raja Syarafina Raja Shuib said NSTP had filed a withdrawal notice dated Aug 29 at the Federal Court.
The withdrawal notice meant NSTP would not pursue a further appeal at the apex court, after an appellate court decision favouring Lim and Ramasamy last September.
“Opinion is free, facts are sacred. We continue to respect the freedom and importance of the press.
“But above and beyond that is our greater respect for truth, and those entrusted to disseminate factually accurate news.
“Once again, the NST has been proven in court to slander and publish false news reports against non-BN political personalities.
“Unfortunately, losing defamation cases such as this has not deterred them from persisting with such slander,” Raja Syarafina told a press conference at Komtar today.
Lim and Ramasamy had filed a defamation suit against NSTP and its then journalist Predeep Nambiar over an article titled “Indian-interest group claims thugs interrupted meeting”.
The NST Online article was based on claims made during a press conference, organised by “Concerned Citizens of the Indian Community”, over the faulty Hindu crematorium at Lorong Batu Lanchang.
NST Online had reported that “a few thugs” had interrupted the group’s meeting using expletives and threats to hurt them.
The claim was made by N Ganesan, an NGO member who claimed to be attacked by a group of thugs who appeared to be sent by Lim and Ramasamy.
Ganesan said “based on what was said by these thugs, we believe these thugs were sent in by Chief Minister Lim and his deputy P Ramasamy”.
In court, Lim and Ramasamy said they were not aware of such a meeting and denied sending any thugs.
Lim and Ramasamy first lost the case against NSTP and Nambiar in the High Court but later won at the Appeals Court on Sept 6.
The appellate court awarded them RM200,000 each in damages and RM50,000 in costs.
The Appeals Court, in its decision, said the words used in the article had exposed the plaintiffs to ridicule, hatred or contempt, and that it was a necessity for NST to get a response and verification from the aggrieved plaintiffs over the allegations against them before publication.
NST had told the High Court earlier that Lim and Ramasamy did not want to comment when contacted. The two ministers told the court they refused to comment as the story was already published online, among others.