Penang High Court rejects ‘Botak Hill’ defamation suit against DAP rep

DAP's Teh Yee Chew (right) shaking hands with his lawyer, Cheah Eng Soon, after the defamation suit against him was thrown out by the Penang high court, April 11, 2016. — Picture by KE Ooi
DAP's Teh Yee Chew (right) shaking hands with his lawyer, Cheah Eng Soon, after the defamation suit against him was thrown out by the Penang high court, April 11, 2016. — Picture by KE Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, April 11 — The Penang High Court today dismissed a private firm’s defamation suit against DAP’s Teh Yee Cheu over his remarks on the illegal hill clearing of the so-called “Botak Hill” here.

Justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail ruled that Teh’s remarks on the illegal hill clearing of Bukit Relau by General Accomplishments Sdn Bhd (GASB) was not defamatory.

“I find that the published suggestions by Teh that provisions under the National Forestry Act 1984 and the Environmental Quality Act 1974 be looked at in the case against GASB is not defamatory against the plaintiff,” she said when delivering her judgement today.

She then dismissed GASB’s defamation suit against Teh and ordered GASB to pay costs of RM30,000 to Teh.

GASB and Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping had jointly filed a writ of summons against Teh for allegedly issuing slanderous statements to the press during his “hair shaving ceremony” on January 1, 2014.

In the suit filed in May 2014, they contended that Teh had maliciously issued statements that “inextricably imputed a disparaging, irreparably and falsified general perception of GASB”.

Today, Hadhariah also ruled that statements Teh had made against GASB and the hill clearing that was published by various media including The Malaysian Insider and Nanyang Siang Pau were not defamatory.

Teh’s counsel, Cheah Eng Soon, said the court has also agreed with his submissions that Teh’s remarks advising Tan to adhere to existing laws on hill clearing were not defamatory in nature.

On January 1, 2014, Teh shaved his head bald as a symbolic “protest” to what he deemed as insufficient action taken against GASB over the illegal hill clearing of Bukit Relau.

GASB was fined RM30,000 by the Penang Sessions Court in 2013 for failing to submit earthworks plan as required by Section 70A of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 but Teh felt this was not enough.

Teh held the head-shaving ceremony to push for more actions to be taken against GASB and also to push the firm to start rehabilitation works on the hill immediately.

He had called on the Forestry Department, the Department of Environment (DOE) and also the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) to visit the site and to also take legal action against the landowner in accordance to their respective acts.

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