KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30— The Court of Appeal today ordered Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the ministry’s secretary-general to pay damages for the suspension order issued on The Edge Communications Sdn Bhd last year over its 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) reports.
According to news portal Malaysiakini, a three-member bench led by Justice Datuk Mohd Zawawi Mohd Salleh dismissed the appeal by the Home Ministry on the sum of damages in which senior federal counsel Alice Loke had submitted The Edge was not entitled to.
Today’s unanimous decision also saw the court accepting the submission by counsel Darryl Goon representing The Edge that damages can be awarded based on Order 53(5) of the Rules of Court.
“We are not with you (Loke) and we have to dismiss the appeal. The respondents have passed the threshold (in the award of damages) under Order 53(5).
“No order is made as to costs,” Justice Zawawi reportedly said.
Both parties would now need to refer back to High Court for the assessment of damages.
On September 21 last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court quashed the Home Ministry’s three-month suspension order on The Edge Financial Daily and The Edge Weekly over 1MDB reports.
Datuk Asmabi Mohamad, the judge presiding over the case back then ruled that the Home Ministry acted irrationally and illegally by issuing the suspension order, also ruling that the latter had breached procedural fairness when issuing a show-cause letter to the publisher.
The judge had said the Home Ministry’s suspension order was made ultra vires or beyond the powers granted under Section 7(1) of the Printing Presses Publications Act (PPPA), also ruling that natural justice was breached as The Edge was not given an opportunity to be heard in relation to Section 7(1).
Among other things, Asmabi had said that the Home Minister was himself “in doubt” on whether The Edge had published its articles by relying on allegedly unverified information on online news portals, especially Sarawak Report.
The suspension order came three weeks after Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced on July 1 that a show-cause letter had been issued to The Edge for publishing what the government deemed to be unverified news on debt-laden 1MDB.
The three-month suspension order was set to end on October 27, but The Edge was allowed to resume printing before that date, following the High Court’s October 13 dismissal of the Home Ministry’s bid for a stay of the September 21 ruling.