Judge recuses herself from hearing Synergy’s suit against NSTP

The Kuala Lumpur Vertical City (KLVC) project on Jalan Semarak in Kuala Lumpur. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A High Court judicial commissioner today recused herself from hearing a defamation suit filed by Synergy Promenade Sdn Bhd (SPSB) against newspaper company The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad (NSTP) over its reports on the property company and its involvement as the master developer of the Kuala Lumpur Vertical City (KLVC) project on Jalan Semarak here.

Lawyer Rueben Mathiavaranam, representing NSTP, said Aliza Sulaiman withdrew herself from hearing the suit as she knew SPSB managing director Marina Hashim and they had attended several functions together.

“The judge said she knows Datuk Marina and she has been to several functions and advised her before.

“Therefore, the judge said it is not right for her to decide on the case,” said the lawyer when met after management of the case in chambers before Aliza today.

The proceeding was also attended by lawyer Prem Ramachandran, representing SPSB.

SPSB filed the suit last June 20, naming the NSTP, which is the publisher of the Malay daily Berita Harian, and Berita Harian reporter Che Wan Badrul Alias as defendants.

It was over reports published in the Berita Harian newspaper between Dec 21, 2017 and Feb 9, 2018 on SPSB, causing the company to suffer losses due to loss of high-value projects it was working on.

In the statement of claim, SPSB stated that the reports and articles in the newspaper were also uploaded on the NSTP website and https://www.bharian.com.my.

The plaintiff states that the reports and articles, which were carried by BH on the KLVC issue, did not conform with the fair, ethical and accurate journalism whereby it had among others alleged that SPSB had wrongfully transferred assets belonging to Felda, causing the agency to suffer losses.

SPSB said a “notice of action” was served on both defendants on June 1 seeking their apology and damages but they failed to respond.

Besides seeking RM250 million in damages, the plaintiff is also seeking an injunction order preventing the defendant from republishing the statements.

The company is also demanding that the defendant publish an apology, to be issued based on the terms agreed upon by the plaintiff.

NSTP, in its defence statement filed last July 25, claimed that the articles were not defamatory and touched on issues of public interest.

It said they were written in a fair and responsible manner.