Guan Eng wins defamation suit against Utusan, NSTP over 'spy' claim

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng speaks during a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Putrajaya February 26, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng speaks during a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Putrajaya February 26, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, March 5 — New Straits Times Press (NSTP) and Utusan Melayu (M) Sdn Bhd have agreed to pay damages totalling RM400,000 to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng as awarded by the High Court in a defamation lawsuit filed by the latter for labelling him a ‘Singapore agent’.

Lim’s lawyer Americk Singh Sidhu today told a three-member Federal Court bench that the two mainstream media groups conceded to reinstate the High Court's decision that they (NSTP and Utusan Melayu) each pay RM200,000 in damages to Lim.

He subsequently applied to withdraw Lim's application for leave to appeal against NSTP and its former group editor Datuk Syed Nazri Syed Harun, Utusan Melayu and its former group editor-in-chief Datuk Abdul Aziz Ishak.

Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop who sat with Federal Court judges Datuk Seri Balia Yusof Wahi and Datuk Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin struck out Lim's leave to appeal against the mainstream media groups.

Meanwhile, Americk Singh requested the court to set a case management date for matters involving the three other respondents — Perkasa, its president Datuk Ibrahim Ali and former Perkasa information chief Ruslan Kassim — who sought time to explore the possibility of settlement. 

Justice Ahmad then fixed April 3 for case management.

Lim, who was then the Penang chief minister, filed the defamation suit in 2012 against the seven respondents.

He claimed Ruslan had published a statement on Perkasa's website on Oct 1, 2011 which implied that he was endangering national security by exposing the country's secrets to Singapore.

In March 2015, then High Court judge Nor Bee Ariffin (now Court of Appeal judge) found Perkasa, Ibrahim and Ruslan liable for defamation.

She ordered Ruslan, Ibrahim and Perkasa to pay RM150,000 in general and aggravated damages, and Syed Nazri and NSTP to pay RM200,000, and Abdul Aziz and Utusan Melayu to pay RM200,000 in general and aggravated damages.

In 2016, a Court of Appeal three-man bench allowed the respondents' appeal to set aside the High Court order prompting Lim to file the application for leave to appeal at the Federal Court the following year.

Counsels TH Liew and Lim Qi Si represented NSTP and Utusan Melayu while lawyer Mohd Irwan Mohd Mubarak is appearing for Ruslan and Adnan Seman for Ibrahim and Perkasa. — Bernama