KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 ― Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has sued Sabah paper Daily Express’s publisher over three reports on a 2015 Umno dinner that he had attended where turtle eggs, an illegal delicacy, were served.
News portal Malaysiakini reported that the three articles in question were titled “Minister and Sabah YB have yet to comply: Dept”, “Beluran turtle eggs dinner: Findings left to the AG” and “Explain turtle egg confusion first, Lim (Kit Siang) tells Minister”.
The rural and regional development minister reportedly filed the suit against Sabah Publishing House Sdn Bhd on March 30 this year.
He reportedly claimed that the reports implied that he had abused the law and complained that the articles had been published without seeking his comments. He alleged that the reports were false, baseless and maliciously published.
Ismail Sabri also claimed that the paper did not seek verification from government departments on whether he had refused cooperation with investigators.
The Umno supreme council member reportedly sought RM10 million in damages and an injunction barring the Sabah Publishing House from repeating the allegedly defamatory words.
Malaysiakini reported that Sabah Publishing House denied publishing the reports without seeking Ismail Sabri’s comments or without verification from government departments.
In its defence filed last May, the company also reportedly denied that the articles were libellous.
Case management has been fixed for July 11.
In November 2015, several photos were posted on the Walai Penyu Resort Libaran Facebook page showing Ismail Sabri and Umno Beluran division chief Datuk James Ratib, among others, seated at a restaurant with turtle eggs and lobsters placed on the “Lazy Susan” in front of them.
The photo was believed to have been taken during the Umno Beluran division meeting dinner in August at Restoran Indah Keranamu, in Sandakan. However, Ismail Sabri denied consuming the eggs due to his high cholesterol level.
The Sabah Wildlife Department has promised to probe the case and bring the culprits to justice, but investigations have been hampered due to lack of evidence.