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Dec 12 verdict on Terengganu sultanah's appeal against Rewcastle-Brown

Sultanah Nur Zahirah is appealing against the High Court, which dismissed her suit against the Sarawak Report editor and two others.

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Sultanah of Terengganu Sultanah Nur Zahirah (left) and Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown.
Sultanah of Terengganu Sultanah Nur Zahirah (left) and Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown.

The Court of Appeal has fixed Dec 12 to give its verdict on Sultanah of Terengganu Sultanah Nur Zahirah's appeal in her defamation suit against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown and two others.

A three-member bench comprising justices Hadhariah Syed Ismail, Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, and Azhahari Kamal Ramli set the date after hearing submissions from Sultanah Nur Zahirah's counsel, A Vishu Kumar, and lawyer Americk Sidhu, representing Rewcastle-Brown, and the other two respondents in an online proceeding today.

"We require some time to give our decision," said justice Hadhariah, who chaired the bench.

Sultanah Nur Zahirah is appealing against the High Court decision on Oct 31 last year, which dismissed her suit against Rewcastle-Brown, Gerakbudaya Enterprise publisher Chong Ton Sin, and printer Vinlin Press Sdn Bhd.

She claimed that the three respondents had defamed her in a book entitled "The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose".

During the proceeding earlier, Vishu submitted that the High Court judge, Dr John Lee Kien How @ Mohd Johan, had erred when he decided that the statement in the book was not defamatory of Sultanah Nur Zahirah.

He said the respondents failed to produce any evidence to establish the truth of the said statement and that their defence of justification also collapsed because they failed to verify the correctness of the said statement.

Vishu said Sultanah Nur Zahirah should be awarded damages as she has shown the gravity of the liability. He said the damage done to the sultanah's reputation was far and wide, as more than 2,000 copies of the book were sold.

He said the court should also take into account that the sultanah of Terengganu is the chancellor of two universities and involved in charity work, and she was also at one time the Raja Permaisuri Agong of Malaysia.

He added that despite the respondents making an amendment to the book involving the impugned statement and substituting the reference to Sultanah Nur Zahirah with the Sultan’s sister, her (Sultanah Nur Zahirah’s) reputation is still not vindicated because no apology, retraction, or withdrawal can completely undo the harm the libel had done.

Meanwhile, Americk Sidhu said the High Court judge was correct in dismissing Sultanah Nur Zahirah’s claim and must have considered the issues in detail before finding that the contents of the passage in the book could not possibly be defamatory of Sultanah Nur Zahirah.

He said if the appellate court was minded to set aside the High Court's decision and decided that the statement was defamatory, the award of damages ought to be nominal.

Sultanah Nur Zahirah filed the suit on Nov 21, 2018, claiming that the said statement, among others, meant that she was involved in corruption and interfering in the administration of the Terengganu government, besides using her status to influence the establishment of the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), which was later known as 1MDB.

She claimed that the statement meant that she had helped Jho Low become a TIA adviser.

In her statement of claim, the sultanah sought general damages of RM100 million from each respondent and an order for the publisher to withdraw the book containing the alleged defamatory statement and for the printer to stop printing the book.