Bandar Kuching MP gets nod to appeal over defamation lawsuit

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court will hear arguments on whether the state government and federal government can sue an individual for defamation.

This follows a decision by a three-man panel today to give the nod to DAP Bandar Kuching Member of Parliament, Chong Chieng Jen to appeal after the Sarawak state government and the State Financial Authority consented to the application.

Chong, who is also Kota Sentosa assemblyman, was sued by the state government and State Financial Authority for defamation relating to allocations and spending of the state funds.

Federal Court judge Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar who chaired the panel, granted Chong the leave to appeal against the appellate court's majority ruling that the state government could sue him for defamation. Chong has to file his notice of appeal within 14 days.

Counsel representing the parties in the lawsuit will submit at the hearing of the appeal in respect of three legal questions, including on the issue of whether the state government can sue an individual for defamation.

Among the questions are whether Section 3 of the Government Proceedings Act 1956 and Section 3 (1) (c) of the Civil Law Act 1956 preclude the English case law principle in Derbyshire County Council vs Times Newspapers Ltd and others to be extended to the state government. The principle states that local authorities could not institute libel action.

Chong won at the High Court which dismissed the lawsuit after it ruled the state government did not have the right to sue for defamation. The High Court decided the matter on questions of law under Order 14A of the Rules of Court, 2012.

The Court of Appeal, in a majority 2-1 decision, reversed the High Court decision, ruling that Section 3(1)(c) of the Civil Law Act and Section 3 of the Government Proceedings Act conferred the state government the same right as a private citizen to sue another private citizen for defamation.

The Court of Appeal subsequently entered judgment against Chong and ordered for damages to be assessed by the High Court deputy registrar.

Lawyer Ranjit Singh represented Chong, while deputy state attorney-general Talat Mahmood Abdul Rashid and state legal officer Mohd Adzrul Adzlan appearded for the state government. — Bernama