PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has reserved its decision in the appeal brought by National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp) executive chairman Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail and his company in a defamation suit filed against former Pandan member of Parliament Mohd Rafizi Ramli.
A three-member bench led by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed said they needed time to consider the submissions and would inform parties in the appeal once they were ready to deliver the decision.
The other two judges were Federal Court judges Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Puan Sri Zaleha Yusof.
The court heard submissions by Dr Mohamed Salleh's counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Razlan Hadri Zulkifli, who represented Mohd Rafizi.
In the court proceedings conducted virtually on Thursday (Jan 13) through Zoom, Muhammad Shafee asked the court to reinstate the decision of the High Court which ordered Mohd Rafizi to pay RM200,000 in damages to Mohamad Salleh and NFCorp after allowing their defamation suit against him (Mohd Rafizi).
In May 2019, the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court's decision after allowing Mohd Rafizi's appeal.
The defamation suit filed by Dr Mohamad Salleh and NFCorp in 2013 against Mohd Rafizi was in relation to his (Mohd Rafizi's) statement made on March 7, 2012 at a media conference at the PKR office on the purchase of KL Eco City Properties which was published by Malaysiakini.
In his submissions, Muhammad Shafee said Mohd Rafizi's comments and allegations did not amount to a fair comment, adding that the facts and circumstances which the comments were made displayed a certain measure of recklessness on Mohd Rafizi's part.
He said Mohd Rafizi had the time to prepare his press statement and would have the time to contact Dr Mohamad Salleh to verify the allegation.
Muhammad Shafee said Mohd Rafizi called a press conference and published a statement alleging that a portion of the proceeds of the loan given to NFCorp designated for the National Feedlot project were used by Dr Mohamad Salleh and his son as leverage to finance the purchase of eight KL Eco City office units.
He also said Dr Mohamad Salleh was offered a loan by Public Bank, but he did not take the loan and the bank terminated the offer, adding that the issue of using monies as leverage never arose.
It is undisputed that as a result of the publication of the statement by Mohd Rafizi, Dr Mohamad Salleh's business, credibility and reputation suffered tremendous damage and harm, he added.
Muhammad Shafee also said in 2011, the auditor-general audited the non-performance of a government project under the Ministry of Agriculture called National Feedlot Centre (Pusat Fidlot Nasional) and presented its findings to Parliament in Oct, the same year and not NFCorp.
Razlan Hadri, however, urged the court to dismiss the appeal, contending that the comments made by Mohd Rafizi were fair and justifiable.
He said Mohd Rafizi's conclusion that the public fund was used as leverage for the Public Bank loan was a comment which a fair-minded person would have honestly made.
Razlan Hadri said issues of public interest ought to be discussed, adding that there was basis for Mohd Rafizi to say what he had said and that it was not devoid of facts. - Bernama