Rewcastle-Brown, two others ordered to pay RM300,000 in damages to Terengganu Sultanah

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has ordered Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown and two others to pay RM300,000 in damages to Sultanah of Terengganu Sultanah Nur Zahirah for defaming her.

This followed a decision Tuesday (Dec 12) by a three-member bench comprising Justices Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail, Mohamed Zaini Mazlan and Datuk Azhahari Kamal Ramli allowing Sultanah Nur Zahirah’s appeal to overturn a High Court decision, made on Oct 31 last year, which dismissed her suit against the three defendants.

Besides Rewcastle-Brown, the other two defendants named in the suit are Gerakbudaya Enterprise publisher Chong Ton Sin and printer Vinlin Press Sdn Bhd.

ALSO READ: Dec 12 verdict on Sultanah's appeal in suit against Rewcastle-Brown

In the court’s decision, which was delivered online, Justice Azhahari said the statement in a book titled "The Sarawak Report – The Inside IMDB Expose” was defamatory of the Sultanah.

He said the court also found Chong and the printer Vinlin Press jointly liable for defaming the Sultanah and ordered all three respondents to jointly pay the RM300,000 damages.

Justice Azhahari also said it was the court’s view that at the time of publication of the book, the statement was calculated to expose the Sultanah to hatred, ridicule or contempt.

This, he said, could be seen in the negative comments in a news portal, which were directed to Sultanah Nur Zahirah over purported corrupt practices.

ALSO READ: Court sets Sept 22 to hear Terengganu Sultanah's appeal against Rewcastle-Brown case decision

"This clearly shows the appellant’s reputation was being ridiculed and degraded as being a person involved in... corrupt practices," he added.

Justice Azhahari said in assessing the damages, the court took into account several matters including the fact that Rewcastle-Brown had admitted that there was an honest mistake on her part when writing the statement in 2018.

He said Rewcastle-Brown admitted that the Sultanah did not introduce Jho Low to the Sultan, but it was the Sultan’s sister, and that she (Rewcastle-Brown) did not apologise to the Sultanah at any time before the suit was filed against her at the High Court.

He added that the appellant is the Sultanah of Terengganu, and being the Sultan’s consort, she is well known by the people, and the statement would obviously tarnish her image.

Sultanah Nur Zahirah filed the suit on Nov 21, 2018, claiming Rewcastle-Brown, Gerakbudaya Enterprise and Vinlin Press had defamed her in the book.

ALSO READ: Rewcastle-Brown will get a fair trial, no palace interference

She claimed that the statement, among others, meant that she was involved in corruption and interfering in the administration of the Terengganu government, besides using her status to influence the establishment of the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), which was later known as 1MDB.

The Sultanah also claimed that the statement meant that she had helped Jho Low to become a TIA adviser.

She sought general damages of RM100mil from each respondent and an order for the publisher to withdraw the book containing the alleged defamatory statement, and for the printer to stop printing the book.

A. Vishnu Kumar and Datuk Mohd Haaziq Pillay Abdullah represented the Sultanah, while the respondents were represented by Americk Sidhu and Mervyn Lai. – Bernama

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