The Court of Appeal today upheld the decision of the High Court ordering Perak PAS commissioner Razman Zakaria to pay RM250,000 in damages to Lim Guan Eng over a Facebook post deemed defamatory to the former Penang chief minister.
A three-member bench comprising justices S Nantha Balan, Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, and Choo Kah Sing dismissed Razman's appeal after they ruled that judicial commissioner Amarjeet Singh (now a High Court judge) had correctly concluded that the Facebook publication was defamatory. The Court of Appeal also ordered Razman to pay RM20,000 in costs.
Justice Nantha Balan, who delivered the court's unanimous decision, said the Facebook posting was one that, even upon a quick scroll or fleeting glance by the reader, defamed Lim by suggesting, imputing, or stating that he was 'anti-tudung', which in the Malaysian context is highly defamatory of Lim.
"We agree with the judicial commissioner that the words in the caption 'doa moga ini tidak betul' and 'kalau ianya benar' (in the Facebook posting) do not act as an antidote and do not take away the sting, which suggests explicitly or at any rate implicitly that the plaintiff (Lim) is someone who encourages discriminatory activities and ignores the sensitivities of Malaysian Muslims, particularly in Penang," he said.
He also said there were 61 readers' comments on the Facebook post, and some had even warned Razman that he was risking a defamation suit.
Justice Nantha Balan said the court also found no merit with regard to Razman's counsel Norazli Nordin's contention that the publication of the post was not proven as there was no independent proof that any third party had access to the Facebook account.
He said that, having considered the matter carefully and having due regard to the comprehensive written submissions as well as the oral clarification, the court found that there was no appealable error to warrant any appellate interference in the case.
Lim sued Razman over a post on his (Razman) Facebook page on Nov 18, 2017, which alleged that Lim was supporting a ban on hotel workers wearing headscarves, with the Penang government in full support.
In his statement of claim, Lim said the words used in Razman's posting were from an unauthentic source and aimed at tarnishing his name and reputation and portraying him as a leader who had no respect for Islam and Malay culture.
On March 14 last year, the High Court in Penang allowed Lim's claim and ordered Razman to pay Lim RM150,000 in general damages and RM100,000 in aggravated and exemplary damages.
Justice Amarjeet Singh also ordered Razman to make a public apology on his Facebook page and for Lim's Facebook page to be tagged with the apology post.
Razman, who is also the opposition leader in the Perak state assembly, was also ordered not to repeat the statement on Facebook in any way in the future. This prompted Razman to file an appeal with the Court of Appeal.
Lawyers N Mureli and Felix Lim appeared for Lim.