Defamation ruling: Chong cautions GPS to watch their steps

KUCHING, Sept 29: Kota Sentosa Assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen has warned the Sarawak government that it may have a taste of its own medicine now that all governments may sue for defamation.

Chong, who is also Stampin MP and state Pakatan Harapan chief, reminded Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) leaders that PH was now in control of the federal government.

He held the view that whatever tactics used by GPS (the ruling party in Sarawak) may be applied by PH (the ruling coalition) against GPS.

“I just want to remind those Sarawak’s GPS, now we (PH) are in the government. Any criticism that we feel is defamatory, well, they will have a taste of their own medicine.

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“We will not use this principle of the law easily. We will not misuse it, but I will direct at GPS leaders because they are the ones who advocate the wrong principle of the law,” said Chong at a press conference at Sarawak DAP headquarters here today.

He, however, said this would not be applied to others, who can still criticise and PH will accept any fair criticisms.

“As for GPS leaders, be watchful,” said Chong.

Chong said in all commonwealth countries, it is a very established principle of law that governments cannot sue for defamation.

“Therefore, as you are all aware, a lot of academicians and lawyers had made comments on the Federal Court’s decision that governments can sue for defamation,” he said.

He said the principle that governments cannot sue for defamation is based on the notion that a government is not a natural person and that it is elected by the people. And as a government is using the tax-payer money, anyone can crticise the government.

“It (the decision) is a setback in freedom of speech and freedom of expression given the decision,” said Chong.

Chong was commenting on the recent decision of the Federal Court, which ruled that governments at federal and state levels can sue individuals for defamation in Chong versus the Sarawak Government case.

Chong holding a pamphlet of “The Budget Blackhole: Where has our RM11,000,000,000 gone?”.

The Sarawak government and the state Financial Authority filed a defamation suit against Chong at the Kuching High Court in 2013 for defamation in Chong’s allegation “The Budget Blackhole: Where has our RM11,000,000,000 gone” that was published by the print media, news portal and in pamphlets that Chong and DAP distributed.

The Kuching High Court struck out the suit in 2014.

The case was brought to the Court of Appeal, which ruled that public authorities could sue individuals for defamation without going through the whole trial.

The Federal Court recently upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal that public authorities may sue an individual for defamation, but decided that a proper trial must be held.

The case has been fixed to be heard on Oct 3.

Also present at the press conference was Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii. — DayakDaily