The Federal Court has reinstated the High Court’s decision for Perkasa and its president Ibrahim Ali to pay RM150,000 in damages for defamation to former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng.
In a 2-1 majority decision, the three-member bench led by Federal Court judge Nallini Pathmanathan allowed Lim’s appeal to set aside the Court of Appeal’s decision overturning the High Court’s ruling.
Justice Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal, who delivered the court’s judgment, held that a public officer, whether he is suing in his official or personal capacity, is not prohibited from bringing an action for damages for defamation.
The court awarded RM50,000 in costs to Lim, who is DAP secretary-general and former finance minister.
Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli, who dissented, said Lim had filed the defamation suit in his official capacity.
He said Lim was not properly represented by a government legal officer as required under the Government Proceedings Act, adding that there was no fiat, or formal authorisation, produced by the law firm representing him.
Lim filed the defamation suit in 2012 against seven respondents, claiming that former Perkasa information chief, the late Ruslan Kassim, had published a statement on Perkasa’s website on Oct 1, 2011 implying that he was endangering national security by exposing the country’s secrets to Singapore.
On March 26, 2015, the High Court found The New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd (NSTP), its former group editor Syed Nazri Syed Harun, Utusan Melayu (M) Sdn Bhd, its group editor-in-chief Abdul Aziz Ishak, Perkasa, Ibrahim and Ruslan liable for defamation.
It ordered Perkasa to pay RM150,000, while NSTP and Utusan were to pay RM200,000 each in damages.
On March 5, 2019, Lim pursued his application in the Federal Court to obtain leave to appeal only against Perkasa, Ibrahim and Ruslan. However, at the outset of his appeal hearing in the Federal Court on Sept 22 last year, Lim withdrew his legal action against Ruslan who had passed away.
Lim obtained leave to appeal to the Federal Court against the Court of Appeal’s decision in July 2019.
He also withdrew his leave to appeal application against NSTP and Utusan Melayu on March 5, 2019 after the mainstream media agreed to reinstate the High Court decision and to pay RM200,000 each in damages.