KUALA LUMPUR: The Pakatan Harapan government will push for a change in the law which allows the government to sue individuals for defamation, says Mohamed Hanipa Maidin.
This follows a Federal Court judgment which allows the government to sue individuals for defamation.
“We are going to have a meeting and form a committee to study the matter.
“This includes taking into consideration recommendations made on the issue and the Derbyshire principle," the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department told reporters at the launching of the International Sports Law Conference at the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC) on Friday (Sept 28).
The committee will look at the Government Proceedings Act 1956 (GPA), and the Derbyshire principle, a common law principle based on a British case that a public body has no legal standing to mount defamation suits.
Hanipa, who is in charge of law, said that he was quite shocked with the court’s decision.
“While the Government Proceedings Act 1956 allows the government to sue, it has to differentiate between defamation and other suits,” he said.
Hanipa, a former practising lawyer, assured that the government was not in a hurry to sue anyone for defamation following the recent decision.
He cited Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as an example of a leader who did not sue people for defamation while in office.
“I believe the government is not going to sue anybody for defamation.
“Knowing Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he is not fond of suing anyone for defamation,” Hanipa said.
Lawyers, politicians and civil groups have called for the GPA to be amended to prevent the government from filing defamation suits against individuals, which many say will deter the public from criticising the authorities.
Among them was constitutional lawyer Datuk Malik Imtiaz, who said that allowing the government to sue for defamation would undermine the important aspect of democracy in this country.
In a unanimous decision on Wednesday (Sept 26), a five-man Federal Court Bench, chaired by Court of Appeal President Justice Ahmad Maarop, dismissed an appeal by former Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen and ordered his case to be remitted to the Kuching High Court.
The court affirmed a Court of Appeal ruling that public authorities could sue an individual for defamation, in the suit brought against him by the Sarawak government.
Justice Ahmad also said the Court of Appeal was wrong to rule that Chong, the current Stampin MP, was liable for defamation without hearing his defence.
Chong, who is now Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, filed an appeal against the majority decision of the Court of Appeal on April 7, 2016.
The Sarawak government and the state Financial Authority filed the defamation suit against Chong at the Kuching High Court in April 2013.
The suit was over his allegations of “RM11bil disappearing into a black hole” published in a Chinese national daily and a news portal, and in pamphlets distributed by Chong and the DAP.
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