Cenbet: Amend GPA to stop governments from suing for defamation

PETALING JAYA: The Centre For A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) has called for the Government Proceedings Act 1956 (GPA) to be amended to forbid governments to take legal action against individuals or organisations for defamation.

Joining the chorus of criticism against yesterday’s Federal Court ruling on the matter, Cenbet said the bench had interpreted the GPA in contradiction to the right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

“Governments have practically unlimited resources to sue individuals and organisations for defamation.

“It is outrageous that public institutions are using tax revenue to sue tax and rate payers,” Cenbet co-president Gan Ping Sieu said in a statement today.

Adding that the decision went against the spirit of the Derbyshire principle, he warned that allowing governments to sue or threaten to sue individuals or organisations could lead to a totalitarian state.

Yesterday, a Federal Court bench chaired by Ahmad Maarop dismissed an appeal by Stampin MP Chong Chien Jen, holding that federal and state governments could sue individuals for defamation.

Ahmad, who delivered the unanimous ruling, said in Malaysia, the right of governments to sue was provided for under Section 3 of the GPA.

He said the common law principle based on the 1994 case of Derbyshire was not suitable in Malaysia as there were also restrictions to the right to freedom of speech under the Federal Constitution.

He said Parliament imposed restrictions for defamation and the incitement to any offence.