Appeals Court dismisses Apandi Ali’s appeal in defamation suit

PUTRAJAYA – Former Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali (picture) today failed in his appeal to set aside the decision of a High Court’s dismissal of his RM10 million defamation lawsuit against Tan Sri Lim Kit Siang.

A three-member bench comprising Court of Appeal judges Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail, Datuk M.Gunalan and Datuk Azmi Ariffin, in an unanimous decision dismissed Mohamed Apandi’s appeal after ruling that there is no merit to this appeal.

“The decision of the High Court is affirmed and the appellant (Mohamed Apandi) has to pay costs of RM100,000 to the respondent (Lim),” Justice Hadhariah said.

On May 23, last year, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur dismissed Mohamed Apandi’s suit against the DAP veteran and the former AG subsequently filed the appeal to the Court of Appeal on May 24 last year.

Mohamed Apandi sued Lim for allegedly defaming him in an article on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Justice Hadhariah when reading out today’s decision, said in this case, Lim stated that he has a right to know how the 1MDB financial scandal was investigated by the authorities. 

“We also agreed that as a member of parliament (Iskandar Puteri, Johor at that time), the defendant (Lim) had a duty to inquire into what was going on in regards to the investigation in relation to the 1MDB scandal. 

“The 1MDB scandal is a phenomenal financial scandal involving public funds, where the former prime minister himself was involved. It is considered as the biggest financial scandal that the country has faced.

“As a member of parliament, the defendant had a duty to raise matters of public interest to his electorate, especially on a case of public money involving a prime minister (Najib). The readers on his blog, who include the people of Malaysia, have an inherent right to be informed of the developments of investigation into the scandal. 

We find that the trial judge was correct in holding that impugned word by Lim was made on qualified privilege, she added.

Justice Hadhariah also said, the Appeals Court agreed with the conclusion reached by the learned high court judge on the credibility of the plaintiff (Mohamed Apandi). 

“His (Mohamed Apandi) refusal to offer or to get mutual legal assistance from foreign countries to investigate the 1MDB scandal was simply, in his mind, because there was no criminal offence committed by the former prime minister,” she said.

Justice Hadhariah also pointed out that, Lim, in his oral testimony, said Mohamed Apandi as the Attorney-General (AG) at that time, had practically not taken any meaningful steps to investigate the 1MDB scandal. 

“We fully agreed with Lim. Mohamed Apandi’s action or inaction in handling the 1MDB scandal give the impression to the Malaysian public that he covered up the 1MDB scandal for reasons best known to himself.

“His conduct showed he had fear to discharge his duties and responsibilities as the AG as reasonably expected by regulations. In our view, the only reasonable meaning inferred from the impugned words, that the plaintiff had abused his position as the AG,” she said.

Justice Hadhariah further said, in this case, the impugned words was proved to be substantially true and justified. 

“It must necessarily follow that if the plaintiff’s reputation (Mohamed Apandi) is injured, he was killed to his own conduct. He is the author of his own misfortune,” she added.

Mohamed Apandi, was represented by counsel Rueben Mathiavaranam while lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo represented Lim.

In his suit filed on July 5, 2019, Mohamed Apandi claimed that on May 6, 2019, Lim had written and caused to be published an article titled “Dangerous fallacy to think Malaysia’s on the road to integrity” in Malaysiakini.

He claimed the alleged libellous words in the article implied that he was involved in crime and had abetted in the 1MDB financial scandal, was a person with no morals and integrity, was unethical and had abused his power when he was the AG.

Mohamed Apandi, who was the AG from July 27, 2015, to June 4, 2018, contended that the libellous words were untrue and written with the intention of tarnishing his image and credibility as a former Malaysian AG, for cheap publicity.

He sought aggravated and exemplary damages, as well as RM10 million in general damages, an injunction to prevent Lim and/or his agents from publishing the alleged defamatory words again and other relief deemed fit by the court. – BERNAMA