FGV won’t object to appeal by PKR mouthpiece over RM2 million damages

PUTRAJAYA: Felda Global Ventures Holdings Sdn Bhd (FGV) has conceded to an appeal by Suara Keadilan, the official organ of PKR which was found liable for defamation.

Lawyer Nor Emelia Mohd Iszeham said this meant FGV would not object to Suara Keadilan’s appeal against the RM2 million damages awarded to FGV and the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda).

However, she said Felda could not make a decision as its new chairman had yet to be appointed.

“We have been given until Sept 14 to take instructions on whether to concede to the appeal,” she told reporters after case management before a Court of Appeal deputy registrar today.

Counsel Francis Pereira appeared for the appellants, PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, her former deputy Syed Husin Ali and the writer of the two articles in question, Rusnizam Mahat.

Shahrir Samad resigned as Felda chairman on May 14 following Barisan Nasional’s defeat in the 14th general election.

The former Johor Bahru MP said he had tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who led Pakatan Harapan to win federal power.

On Dec 5 last year, High Court judge Su Geok Yiam allowed the appeal by Felda and FGV and awarded them RM2 million in damages, the highest amount awarded for damages to an aggrieved party in recent years.

Deputy registrar Norfauzani Mohd Nordin had initially ordered Wan Azizah, Syed Husin and Rusnizam to pay RM70,000 in damages.

However, Su said the amount was “extraordinarily low” and should be increased.

“In my opinion, if the low sum is not substituted with an appropriate sum, the tort of libel will be trivialised,: she said.

She also said the plaintiffs were a statutory body and a public-listed company under the Companies Act.

“It will send a wrong message that the (defendants) could do that to other statutory bodies and get away with paying lower damages.”

She added that the defendants had caused panic among shareholders and sparked queries from banks when they used the term “Felda bankrupt”.

On Aug 16, 2010, Felda and FGV filed a RM200 million defamation suit over the news reports published by Suara Keadilan on June 22 and 29 that year.

The plaintiffs alleged that an article with the heading “Felda bankrap” (Felda bankrupt) and “Bina Bangunan RM662 juta hanya libatkan tiga individu” (Construction of RM662 million building involved only three individuals), accompanied by a photograph captioned “Kontroversi”, had tarnished their image.

On Sept 30, 2014, Suara Keadilan’s former editor Dzulkarnain Taib, who was initially named as one of the defendants, tendered an apology to the plaintiffs.

On Oct 17, 2014, the High Court ruled in favour of Felda and FGV.

Felda, FGV win RM2m in damages for defamation against PKR mouthpiece