Guan Eng gets leave to appeal in defamation suit against Perkasa

The Federal Court will determine if Lim Guan Eng has locus standi to maintain the lawsuit in his official capacity.

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today granted Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng leave to proceed with his appeal relating to his defamation suit against Perkasa and two others.

A three-member bench comprising Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak David Wong Dak Wah and Federal Court judges Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Nallini Pathmanathan allowed Lim’s application for leave to appeal against the appellate court’s decision.

On Dec 21, 2016, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeals by Perkasa and two newspapers to overturn a decision by the High Court which ordered them to pay damages to Lim for defaming him.

The appellate court had ruled that Lim, who was then Penang chief minister, could not sue the media for defamation in his official capacity.

Then Court of Appeal judge Rohana Yusuf (now Federal Court judge) had said the court was bound by its earlier decision in the case of Utusan Melayu against former Pahang menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob, that a public official could not sue anyone, including the media, for defamation.

Rohana said the court had accepted the principles decided in an English law case, Derbyshire County Council vs The Times Newspapers Ltd and Others (1993).

Today, Lim only pursued his application for leave against Perkasa, its president Ibrahim Ali and former Perkasa information chief Ruslan Kassim.

He had withdrawn the application for leave to appeal against The New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd (NSTP) and Utusan Melayu (M) Sdn Bhd on March 5, after they agreed to reinstate the High Court decision and pay him RM200,000 each in damages.

In today’s proceedings, Justice Wong allowed Lim leave to appeal on a sole legal question to be determined by the Federal Court at the appeal proper.

The question of law which was consented by all parties was pertaining to Lim’s locus standi to maintain the lawsuit in his official capacity.

Lim had filed the defamation suit in 2012 against the seven respondents, claiming that Ruslan had published a statement on Perkasa’s website on Oct 1, 2011, which implied he was endangering national security by exposing the country’s secrets to Singapore.

On March 26, 2015, the High Court found NSTP, its former group editor Syed Nazri Syed Harun, Utusan Melayu, its group editor-in-chief Abdul Aziz Ishak, Perkasa, Ibrahim and Ruslan Kassim liable for defamation.

The High Court ordered Perkasa to pay RM150,000, while NSTP and Utusan were to pay RM200,000 each in damages.

Lawyer Americk Singh Sidhu appeared for Lim while counsel Hussin Mohd Razak represented Ruslan, and lawyer Adnan Seman appeared for Ibrahim and Perkasa.