Guan Eng wins suit against NSTP, Utusan over ‘Singapore spy’ claim

PUTRAJAYA: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng today won a seven-year legal battle against two media groups over publications which labelled him a “Singapore spy”.

This follows the decision by the New Straits Times Press (NSTP) and Utusan Melayu (M) Sdn Bhd to pay Lim damages totalling RM400,000 as awarded by the High Court in 2015.

Lim’s lawyer Americk Sidhu today told a three-member Federal Court bench chaired by Ahmad Maarop that his client was withdrawing his motion for leave to appeal as the publishers had agreed to honour the High Court decision.

“I am withdrawing the motion as the respondents (NSTP and Utusan Melayu) have agreed to settle by paying the damages as awarded by the High Court,” he said.

Ahmad, who was joined by Balia Yusof Wahi and Alizatul Khir Osman Khairuddin, then struck out the leave application.

Americk said three other respondents – Perkasa, its president Ibrahim Ali, and then-information chief Ruslan Kassim Ali – might also wish to go for an out-of-court settlement.

Case management has been scheduled for April 3.

Outside the court, Americk said NSTP and Utusan Melayu did not want to pursue the matter any further in view of a Federal Court ruling last year in favour of Lim.

The apex court held that federal and state governments can sue individuals for defamation, refusing to accept the common law Derbyshire principle that bars public authorities from taking action against individuals for allegations damaging to reputations.

However, the Court of Appeal adopted the Derbyshire legal principle while striking out Lim’s suit against the two media houses and three others in 2016.

Lim filed an appeal to the Federal Court in 2017.

Americk said the Federal Court ruling on the Derbyshire legal principle gave Lim the legitimacy to sue in his official and personal capacity.

Ruslan had claimed that Lim leaked Malaysia’s secrets during his trip to Singapore with InvestPenang in 2011.

Ruslan’s comment was carried by the New Straits Times and Berita Harian, publications under NSTP, and Utusan Malaysia under Utusan Melayu.