GEORGE TOWN: Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy won a defamation lawsuit against the Malaysian Hindu Sangam (MHS) and a Tamil newspaper over a news report claiming that he had failed to provide places for Hindus to conduct their last funeral rites.
Ramasamy had filed three separate suits, two against MHS, and another against Penerbitan Sahabat (M) Sdn Bhd, which publishes the Malaysia Nanban (Nanban) newspaper.
The High Court ordered MHS to pay RM50,000 in damages and RM8,000 in costs to Ramasamy.
Nanban entered into an amicable settlement with Ramasamy by way of a consent judgement with the daily.
Judge Hadhariah Syed Ismail made the decision after taking into account the apologies made by MHS vice-chairman G Shanmuganathan and Nanban.
On Dec 4, 2017, Ramasamy filed a suit against MHS and Nanban over three front-page articles on April 16, 17 and 18, 2017, over the lack of facilities for Hindus to conduct post-funeral rites, typically done on the 16th day after a person’s death.
In one such article, dated April 17, 2017, titled “Request made in 2012, Ramasamy still in search of solution?”, Nanban alluded that Ramasamy had abused his power by not providing Hindus with a Hindu ritual site as promised by him before.
“A Malaysia Nanban source said there was no permanent space for Hindus to conduct their last funeral rituals. Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy, who should be looking into this matter, has been unconcerned about the issue since 2012.
“Until today, Ramasamy has not found a solution to the problem. Later, the DCM had said that two such spaces (for the rituals) had been identified and the project will take place.
“But years have passed and our request has yet to be met. It is unimaginable what will happen to this promise after the upcoming election.
“People’s representatives should stop abusing their power and it shouldn’t be just be all talk and no action. Instead, they should realise what their duties are and act accordingly,” Nanban quoted MHS spokesperson MP Iyappan as saying.
Ramasamy said the article made him look like he had abused his powers by not taking heed of the wellbeing of Indians in Penang and hence sullied his good name as one of the top leaders in the state.
He said Nanban had failed to practise responsible, accurate, true and fair reporting by publishing unverified statements. It also failed to contact him for a response.
“The damage suffered by me has been aggravated with unadulterated malice by the defendants to ruin my reputation as an elected representative in this country.”
Ramasamy had demanded RM300,000 in general, aggravated, and exemplary damages from the defendants.
MHS and Nanban, in their statement of defence, said the article was true in substance and in fact. Hence, it was not defamatory in nature.
MHS also said it did not authorise any spokesperson to speak on its behalf and the person who gave his views to Nanban was a regular member of the MHS.
Nanban said it had also published an article on April 19, 2017, quoting Ramasamy as saying sites for Hindu post-funeral rites were being established at three places — York Road, Batu Maung and Perai.
The newspaper said it was due to their articles that there was an assurance by Ramasamy that these sites would be established.
When contacted, Ramasamy said he would give the sum he won in damages to the Penang Hindu Endowments Board fund for poor students.