Felda gets leave to appeal in defamation suit

PUTRAJAYA, March 7 (Bernama) -- The Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) and its investment company obtained leave from the Federal Court here today to appeal against the dismissal of their RM200 million defamation suit against a former deputy minister.

A five-men panel chaired by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif allowed the application by Felda and its investment company, Felda Global Ventures Holdings Sdn Bhd for leave to appeal to the Federal Court.

Meanwhile, the panel also granted Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong's application for leave to appeal.

The court allowed both Felda and Dr Tan to deliberate on a legal question each at the appeal stage.

The legal question posed by Felda is whether a plaintiff could bring direct or indirect evidence for the purpose of establishing a prima facie case in a defamation suit.

The legal question posed by Dr Tan is whether a public authority like Felda could maintain a defamation suit.

Federal Court judges Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar, Datuk Ahmad Maarop, Datuk Hasan Lah and Datuk Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha were the other judges on the panel.

Leave application is only allowed if an applicant manages to show that the question of law raised for the first time needed further arguments and was of public importance.

On Jan 25, 2011, Felda and Felda Global Ventures Holding filed the suit over alleged defamatory words published against them in a front-page article of "Suara Keadilan" headlined "Kontroversi."

The article continued on page three under the heading "Bina bangunan RM662 juta hanya libatkan tiga individu." (Only three people involved in putting up RM662 million building).

On March 28 last year, the Court of Appeal in a 2-1 majority decision rejected Felda's appeal and upheld the decision of a Kuala Lumpur High Court to dismiss Felda's defamation suit against Dr Tan, who was former deputy land and cooperatives minister and now PKR's disciplinary committee chairperson.

The Court of Appeal found that Felda as a government agency could sue an individual and also found the report to be defamatory, but was not satisfied whether Dr Tan had indeed uttered the words to the PKR mouthpiece Suara Keadilan.

On Aug 11, 2011 High Court judge Zabariah Mohd Yusof had ruled that while the article was defamatory, Felda had failed to prove that Dr Tan made the remarks.

Felda had during the trial failed to call the reporter who had written the article concerned.

Lawyer Ranjit Singh represented Dr Tan while Datuk Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin appeared for Felda.