Report: Guan Eng sues Raja Petra for defamation over Penang undersea tunnel project articles

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng speaks to reporters in Parliament October 11, 2019, after the tabling of Budget 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — A defamation suit was filed last month by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng against fugitive and controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin over the latter’s 10 articles related to the RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project.

Online portal Malaysiakini reported that the suit was filed on September 6 at the High Court Registry here, and is over a series of articles titled ‘From the MACC Files’ which were published on Raja Petra’s blog Malaysia Today from February 24 to March 15 this year, both in English and Malay.

The alleged defamatory posts were about the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) investigations into the proposed tunnel project, with the suit being filed by Lim through the Messrs Simon Murali & Co law firm.

The Malaysiakini report said that, among the details within the Lim’s statement of claim, was how the articles had contained defamatory allegations accusing him of indulging in corrupt practices while he was the Penang chief minister, for being corrupt and bereft of good character, a schemer and manipulator, for being undignified and unscrupulous, and for having desecrated the sanctity of the public office for personal gain.

“The plaintiff pleads that the impugned statements have disparaged him in his public office, calling and profession, and furthermore, have gravely injured his character, reputation and good name.

“The impugned statements in the said articles have deeply lowered the plaintiff in the estimation of the right-thinking members of society. Consequently, the plaintiff has been exposed to humiliation, ridicule, odium, contempt, and public scandal.

“The plaintiff pleads that he had suffered loss and damages in consequence of the defendant’s wrongful and unjustified act of defamation,” said the report after citing court documents. 

Among the claims put forward by Lim was a prohibitory injunction against Raja Petra to prevent and restrain him from issuing and publishing defamatory statements against him.

Names of other personalities within the articles, as per Lim’s statement of claim, included Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, former minister of tourism and culture Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz, and Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd Senior Executive Director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli.

The federal minister is also seeking a mandatory injunction to compel the blogger to ensure an unconditional apology is published on the front pages of local English newspapers The Star and New Straits Times, in the Malay daily Berita Harian, and Mandarin paper Sin Chew Daily, within seven days of judgement.

All his claims are pursuant to Sections 50,51(2), 52, and 53 of the Specific Relief Act 1950, with the report including that case management for the suit has been set for November 7.

Among the justifying reasons within his claims was how Lim is seeking for aggravated damages because Raja Petra has been relentless in his campaign of purported lies and character assassination against Lim, and that the blogger utilised online media which he had full control and authority to pursue this campaign.

Damages are also being sought over how the alleged defamatory statements mentioned in the 10 articles had received widespread publicity and coverage and became the subject of discussion in the public domain, by the multitudes who had access to and browsed Malaysia Today.

Other exemplary damages being sought by Lim are over the fact that Raja Petra purportedly controls and operates Malaysia Today, from which the impugned statements were published at large owing to easy access to the internet.

“The defendant must have obtained profit from the huge volume of readership on all the aforementioned articles, and the defendant is calculated to have made a profit which can and/or might exceed the damages payable to the plaintiff,” read one of the reasons of Lim’s claim within the suit in the report.

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