Ex-IGP Musa Hassan fails to strike out DAP MP Hannah Yeoh’s defamation lawsuit

Former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan speaking at a news conference, September 14, 2015. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan speaking at a news conference, September 14, 2015. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 — Former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Musa Hassan failed today to dismiss DAP’s Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh’s defamation lawsuit against him over his remarks in a January 2020 forum, her lawyer confirmed today.

Lim Wei Jiet, one of Yeoh’s lawyers, said the High Court in Kuala Lumpur had today heard Musa’s application to strike out the lawsuit, but decided that the court case should proceed.

“High Court Judge Datuk Rozana Ali Yusoff dismissed the striking out application with costs of RM3,000 awarded in favour of YB Hannah Yeoh,” he told Malay Mail.

When asked for the reasons for the judge’s decision, Lim shared that the High Court judge had — after evaluating the arguments by both sides — found that Yeoh has a “reasonable cause of action” against Musa that has to be proved in full proceedings.

Lim added that the High Court has fixed April 2 for case management for the defamation lawsuit.

Lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan also represented Yeoh today, while Musa was represented by lawyers Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz and Muhammad Afiq Qiwamuddin.

On July 3, 2020, Yeoh filed the defamation lawsuit against Musa, over his remarks as a speaker at a forum held at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM).

According to Yeoh’s statement of claim, Musa had in the January 30, 2020 forum gave a speech, where he had among other things accused Yeoh of writing a book to turn the country into a Christian nation.

Yeoh’s autobiography Becoming Hannah had been published since 2014. At the time of Musa’s remarks in 2020, Yeoh was also the deputy women, family and community development minister. Musa was then a former IGP, having retired in 2010.

In her statement of claim, Yeoh said Musa’s statements would be understood to mean that she intends to turn Malaysia into a Christian nation and as being someone who does not respect the Federal Constitution.

Yeoh however said that Musa’s remarks were defamatory and malicious as they were untrue and premeditated and made in bad faith to tarnish her reputation, and also intended to harm her politically.

Yeoh had said the forum which Musa spoke at was publicised across several social media platforms linked to UiTM and its institutions, and that the live-streamed video of the forum on UiTM’s Facebook page had been viewed 14,000 times by the time the lawsuit was filed.

Yeoh said Musa’s remarks were also reported by several media outlets.

Claiming that Musa’s remarks were allegedly intended to incite hatred, contempt and ridicule towards her in her personal and political capacity, Yeoh said the statements had also resulted in distress to her and damaged her reputation besides also allegedly being made with the knowledge that it would affect her safety.

Yeoh said Musa had also failed to withdraw the remarks he had made and to issue an apology as demanded through her lawyers.

In her lawsuit, she sought compensation in the form of general damages, aggravated damages, exemplary damages as well as an injunction to stop Musa from saying or publishing the defamatory remarks or similar words against her.

On September 14, 2020, Musa filed an application to strike out Yeoh’s defamation lawsuit, claiming among other things that the lawsuit had failed to show a reasonable cause of action against him.

In his bid to have the lawsuit struck out, Musa also claimed that he had spoken without malicious intention and cited the qualified privileges defence, where he claimed that he had the responsibility as a former IGP to share his views on national issues such as laws and security matters.

In his application, Musa also claimed that he was invited to the forum which he said was a closed-door event with his speech meant only for 100 UiTM staff and also representatives of several non-governmental organisation who attended, besides also claiming that the remarks said to be defamatory were brief excerpts close to two minutes that were misquoted and taken out of context and did not reflect his entire speech lasting nearly two hours.

Among other things, Musa had claimed Yeoh’s defamation lawsuit to be frivolous and an abuse of court process.

Musa had filed an affidavit to support his application to strike out the lawsuit, while an affidavit by Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) lecturer Kamarul Zaman Yusoff was also filed in court to support Musa’s bid to have the lawsuit dismissed.

In response, Yeoh’s lawyers had in court documents argued that the defamation lawsuit should not be struck out as there is a reasonable cause of action and that it is not frivolous or vexatious.

Among other things, Yeoh’s lawyers pointed out that the forum host had during the forum said the event would be aired live on Facebook, also arguing that having the remarks heard by 100 persons would still amount to publication of the alleged defamatory remarks and would only affect the amount of compensation to be awarded instead of being a reason to strike out the lawsuit.

The lawyers also argued that the length of the alleged defamatory remarks is irrelevant as it could still be defamatory and also argued that they were not taken out of context, further saying that many of the issues mentioned in the striking out proceedings such as the defences cited by Musa would require a further examination of the facts upon a full trial.

Yeoh’s lawyers had also argued that her lawsuit was not an abuse of court process, and had stressed that there were many issues of law and fact that should be decided only after a full hearing.

Having heard the striking out application by Musa today, the High Court then dismissed the bid to strike out Yeoh’s lawsuit.

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