NST to pay Guan Eng, Ramasamy RM450,000 after dropping defamation appeal

By Opalyn Mok
Lim (pic) and Ramasamy had filed a defamation suit against NST and Predeep Nambiar, a journalist then with the newspaper, over an article titled 'Indian-interest group claims thugs interrupted meeting' published online on December 4, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy May

GEORGE TOWN, Sept 21 — The New Straits Times Press will have to pay damages and costs amounting to RM450,000 to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his deputy P. Ramasamy after withdrawing its appeal in a defamation lawsuit.

The Penang chief minister's special legal officer Raja Syarafina Raja Shuib said the publishing house had withdrawn its appeal to the Federal Court against the Court of Appeal's decision that favoured Lim and Ramasamy over an online article published in 2013.

"NST will have to pay a total sum of RM450,000 in which RM200,000 goes to Lim and Ramasamy each while RM50,000 is for legal costs," she said in a press conference at the Penang chief minister's office here today.

She said NST withdrew its appeal on August 29.

Lim and Ramasamy had filed a defamation suit against NST and Predeep Nambiar, a journalist then with the newspaper, over an article titled "Indian-interest group claims thugs interrupted meeting" published online on December 4, 2013.

They initially lost the case when the High Court dismissed their suit. But they filed an appeal, and on September 6 last year, the Court of Appeal ruled in their favour and awarded Lim and Ramasamy RM200,000 in damages each as well as RM50,000 to cover their legal costs.

Raja Syarafina said the appellate court decision highlighted the fact that the words used in the article had exposed Lim and Ramasamy to "ridicule, hatred or contempt" and that NST should get a response and verification from them over the allegations against them before publication.

She claimed that the Penang Pakatan Harapan government leaders have become the prime target for false attacks by irresponsible parties, especially with the general elections near.

"The NST has been proven in court to slander and publish false news reports against non-Barisan Nasional political personalities," she said.

"Unfortunately, losing defamation cases such as this has not deterred them from persisting with such slander," she added.