KUALA LUMPUR: A former Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS) general manager won RM300,000 in damages in his defamation suit against Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd after a High Court ruled that the publisher had defamed him in relation to his contract of service.
Datuk Othman Omar (pic), 56, who was seated at the public gallery, smiled upon hearing the judgment.
When met by The Star, Othman, who is now CEO of Singapore-listed property development company Oxley Holdings (M) Sdn Bhd, said he felt vindicated due to the decision.
"Justice has somehow been served," added Othman, who was represented by his counsel Datuk Dhanaraj Vasudevan.
Justice John Louis O'Hara ordered Utusan Melayu to pay Othman RM250,000 in general damages and RM50,000 in aggravated damages on Wednesday.
He allowed an injunction to stop Utusan Melayu from publishing or distributing any similar defamatory statement against Othman.
"The court finds that the article from the context of its publication to be defamatory," said Justice O'Hara.
In his statement of claim filed on June 14, 2013, Othman said Utusan Melayu had published a libellous article against him in its newspaper Utusan Malaysia which was written by its reporter on Jan 29, 2013.
Among others, Othman said the words had implied that he like to make controversial decisions against former Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and that he made objections against state projects.
Justice O'Hara said the court awarded aggravated damages to Othman as the publication had affected the plaintiff's reputation.
He said that there was malice on the part of the Utusan Melayu as it was reckless in publishing the article.
He said that its reporter did not exercise reasonable care to verify over the truth of the article and that his conduct was irresponsible.
Justice O'Hara said Utusan Melayu has failed to satisfy that it could rely on the defence of qualified privilege over the publication.
In his judgment, Justice O'Hara said Utusan Melayu's article did not contain any statement from Othman and that it was more "accusatory".
He also awarded RM20,000 in costs and five per cent in interests over the award from the date of judgment to its full settlement.
Justice O'Hara also granted an interim stay of his order for Utusan Melayu to publish a retraction over the publication of the libelous statement in two newspapers after their lawyer Mohd Ezral Khairy gave an undertaking to file a formal stay application on this by Oct 1.
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