High Court rejects Chong’s application to amend defence in state govt defamation case

The court complex in Kuching.

By Dorcas Ting

KUCHING, June 29: The High Court here denied DAP Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen’s application to amend his defence today.

Judicial Commissioner Christopher Chin Soo Yin denied the Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman’s application and ordered the Government of the State of Sarawak and State Financial Authority and Chong’s defence counsel to exchange documents by August 14.

Chin also fixed September 11 for case management and trial to be on Oct 12 to Oct 16.

The Government of State of Sarawak and State Financial Authority will call six witnesses during the trial.

Chong applied to Kuching High Court to amend his defence dated April 26, 2013 after his bid to review the apex court’s decision which allows the government to sue for defamation was dismissed by the Federal Court.

The Federal Court had in 2018 upheld a majority decision of the Court of Appeal that the words – “the State budget for the past 7 years…. a sum of RM10 billion mysteriously disappear into this black hole…. and the State does not have money because state money going somewhere else” attributed by Chong by some media houses, were capable of a defamatory meaning. Therefore, the Government of Sarawak and the State Financial Authority could sue Chong for defamation.

Chong was dissatisfied with the judgement of the Federal Court and applied for a review of that judgement by Federal Court on the ground that the judgement violated Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which guaranteed freedom of speech if the Government could sue its citizens for defamation.

However, the State Government argued that the application for review was a guise to appeal against the earlier judgement of the Federal Court on the ground that its earlier decision was wrong and that the Federal Court had no power to hear appeals against its own decision.

On February 12, the Federal Court in Putrajaya unanimously ruled that there was no merit in the application and that the Federal Court could not review its own decision.

Chong’s application was dismissed with costs of RM100,000 to be paid to the Sarawak Government and the State Financial Authority.

On April 3, 2013 the State Government and State Financial Authority sued Chong in the Kuching High Court for defamation for publishing the said objectionable words in the media on January 3, 2013. — DayakDaily