Political parties lack “reputation” and cannot sue for defamation, says the lawyer

The Federal Court of Justice has ruled that political parties do not have a vulnerable “reputation”.

PETALING JAYA: Political parties planning to sue individuals for defamation face an uphill battle following a federal court ruling earlier this year, a lawyer said.

Guok Ngek Seong said a seven-strong bank ruled that political parties cannot sue individuals for defamation or defamation because they have no “reputation” that needs to be protected.

In her ruling, Judge Zaleha Yusof said a political party relies on the public to garner enough votes to come to power. Therefore, it would not be right or in the public interest to fear an action for defamation against the public and to prevent them from expressing their opinions.

“To allow this is definitely against the true value of democracy,” she had said, adding that political parties must not be “thin-skinned” but must always be open to public criticism.

In July 2017, then MCA General Secretary Ong Ka Chuan, in his capacity as the party’s public official, filed a defamation lawsuit against DAP leader and Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng.

This came over remarks at a press conference at Parliament House in 2016, at which Lim claimed MCA had used government funds allocated to Chinese elementary schools.

Judge Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal wrote a separate ruling in the case, saying political parties should not bring defamation claims as they had all available resources to counter unflattering comments made against them.

The Federal Court upheld Lim’s appeal to drop MCA’s lawsuit following the landmark decisions of Goldsmith v. Bhoyrul (UK) and Rajagopal v. Jayalalitha (India).

Guok was responding to PAS Secretary-General Takiyuddin Hassan, who had asked Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to provide evidence to justify his statements that gambling companies had partially funded the Perikatan Nasional (PN) election campaign.

READ :  Nazi shooting report must provide "clear comment": family lawyer

Takiyuddin said PN will consider taking legal action if Anwar fails to provide evidence of his “wild accusation”.

PAS is part of the PN coalition.

Regarding the MCA case, Guok pointed out that the decision that a political party could not bring a lawsuit for defamation was the ruling of the country’s highest court.

“A political party can bring a lawsuit for defamation, but the lower courts are bound by that decision. Only another federal court can deviate from its previous judgment,” he said.