GEORGE TOWN: The High Court today deferred the defamation suit brought by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng against Penang Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman Teng Chang Yeow over a Jerejak Island land deal.
High Court judge Rosilah Yop fixed April 13 for case management in the matter which was initially set for trial today.
The court was packed to the brim with supporters from both sides of the political divide who had been anticipating the trial.
Lim was represented by N Mureli while Teng was represented by K Kirubakaran.
Speaking to reporters later, Mureli said the issue of a potential conflict of interest concerning Kirubakaran was raised before Rosilah, as Kirubakaran had previously acted for the state government in other matters.
Mureli said Kirubakaran might find it uncomfortable to cross-examine the chief minister.
Lim filed the suit against Teng, Star Media Group, senior editor (business) David Tan and journalist Crystal Chiam Shiying over a statement made by Teng during a press conference on Nov 15, 2016.
Teng had questioned the sale of Jerejak Island land to Q Islands Development Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Ideal Property Group, when Lim had rejected the deal in 2013.
Teng’s press conference was reported by The Star Online on Nov 16, 2016. It was also published on page 8 of the daily’s print edition, under the headline “Pulau Jerejak land sale questioned”.
Lim claimed Teng had wrongfully and maliciously issued a defamatory and false statement during the press conference, which was then reported in mediums widely accessible to people, with the intention to insult and shame him as the Penang chief minister.
Lim also claimed that the second, third and fourth defendants failed to verify the information or source. He said the three parties refused or neglected to report the contents of the press conference in a responsible, accurate, true and fair manner, but instead tarnished his name and reputation.
Lim further claimed that all four defendants had not apologised to him despite being sent notices of demand to do so.
He is seeking general, aggravated and exemplary damages, as well as an order for Teng to issue a statement of apology to him concerning the malicious and false statements.
He is also seeking an order to prevent Teng from making such statements in future, and an order for the other three defendants to apologise and withdraw the said article.
In Teng’s statement of defence, he denied that his statement was reckless, wrong, or malicious, and said he had no intent to shame Lim or tarnish his name.
Teng also said his statement had been based on facts.