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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Court strikes out MCA’s defamation suit against DAP MP


The Federal Court has ruled in favour of DAP MP Lim Lip Eng, who alleged that MCA never used its own funds to give to Chinese schools.

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today struck out a defamation suit brought by MCA against Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng for alleging the party never used its own funds to give allocations to Chinese schools and that it had instead pocketed public funds.

A seven-member bench chaired by Rohana Yusuf said Lim’s appeal was allowed and the single question of law posed “is answered in the negative”.

“The suit is struck out. There is no order to costs as it is a public interest issue,” she said.

The question proposed to the Federal Court last year was whether a political party had the capacity to maintain a defamation action in light of the decision of Goldsmith v Bhoyrul.

Gopal Sri Ram, who represented Lim, said the ruling meant political parties could not bring a defamation suit against individuals.

Others on the bench were Azahar Mohamed, Nallini Pathmanathan, Zaleha Yusof, Hasnah Mohammed Hashim, Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal.

In July 2017, then MCA secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan filed the suit against Lim over remarks he made at a press conference at the Parliament building on March 15, 2016.

Ong said Lim’s remarks had seriously injured MCA’s reputation. The party sought RM100 million in general and exemplary damages.

Lim had referred to information from his sources alleging that MCA never used its own funds to give allocations to Chinese schools, and that it had instead allegedly pocketed public funds.

The Court of Appeal in 2019 upheld the High Court’s refusal to strike out Lim’s application.

Earlier, in his submission, Sri Ram said Ong as an individual was not the one allegedly defamed by Lim, but that the matter concerned MCA.

He said the party relied on a 2018 Federal Court ruling in Chong Chieng Jen vs Sarawak Government, which allowed governments to initiate action concerning defamation against individuals.

This was becasue the apex court had ruled that such action could be filed under Section 3 of the Government Proceedings Act.

He said Lim was sued under Section 9(c) of the Societies Act, and MCA had no valid cause of action against the defendant “as the law of defamation protects the reputation of persons”.

Sri Ram said last week’s Federal Court judgment in Lim Guan Eng vs Ibrahim Ali confirmed that reputation was attached to persons, whether in their official or individual capacities, and not to government bodies and societies.

He also said that, like MCA, the government was “not an artificial person capable of maintaining a cause of action in defamation”.

“The only artificial persons who can maintain a cause of action in defamation are corporations, and even then, only in respect of their trading reputation,” he said.

Lawyer Ng Chew Hor, who appeared for Ong and MCA, submitted that the decision in Chong Chieng Jen’s case was still a good law and that the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the constitution was not absolute.

He said Parliament had imposed restriction to free speech with the existence of the defamation law. - FMT

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