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Court dismisses ex-AG Apandi’s libel appeal against Kit Siang
Published on: Thursday, November 02, 2023
By: FMT, V Anbalagan
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Court dismisses ex-AG Apandi’s libel appeal against Kit Siang
Apandi Ali filed his suit against Lim Kit Siang in July 2019, claiming that Lim’s statement depicted him as immoral and unethical.
PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has dismissed a defamation appeal by former attorney-general Apandi Ali against Lim Kit Siang over an article published by the DAP veteran in 2019 linked to the 1MDB scandal.

Justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail, who chaired a three-member bench, said the High Court did not err in law or on the facts when rejecting Apandi’s suit on May 23 last year.

“Lim had successfully raised the defences of justification and fair comment to ward off the suit,” said Hadhariah, who sat with Justices M Gunalan and Azmi Ariffin.

The court also ordered Apandi to pay Lim RM100,000 in costs.

Hadhariah said the 1MDB financial scandal was phenomenal as it involved public funds and implicated then prime minister Najib Razak.

“It is considered the biggest financial scandal that the country has faced. As an MP who was concerned with integrity, transparency and accountability, he (Lim) had a moral duty to raise the matter,” she said.

She said Apandi, the attorney-general at the time, had been entrusted with the power to direct investigations to get to the bottom of the case and charge those responsible without fear of favour.

“But instead, the plaintiff (Apandi) tried to impede and obstruct the investigation of the 1MDB scandal.

“His action and inaction were indeed unreasonable and fell short of public expectation,” she said, adding that Apandi was the author of his misfortune.

Hadhariah said Apandi had failed to show an iota of evidence to support his claim that he did not “aid and abet” Najib in the scandal.

The judge said the court accepted the lesser meaning ascribed by Lim to the term “aided and abetted”, namely that Apandi had used his office to cover up the scandal.

In that sense, the term was not defamatory of Apandi, she said.

Earlier, counsel Sangeet Kaur Deo said Lim had successfully proven his primary defences of justification and qualified privilege.

She also said the grounds of appeal advanced by Apandi were without basis.

Sangeet said the court could not ignore the fact that Apandi, as attorney-general, played a critical role in the investigations into the 1MDB scandal.

She said his refusal to act in a meaningful way suggested a cover-up.

“Evidence of that failure was abundant in the trial, specifically through the evidence of two witnesses and Apandi himself,” said Sangeet, who was assisted by Simranjit Kaur.

Counsel Rueben Mathiavaranam, who appeared for Apandi, submitted that Lim had “failed miserably” to justify the alternative meaning he had put forward for the phrase “aided and abetted” used in his article.

He said if Apandi had aided and abetted in the 1MDB scandal, all Lim had to do was to contact Apandi and seek clarification before publishing his article.

“He did not offer the plaintiff a chance to respond or answer the question. This clearly can be described as conduct unbecoming of a former MP and senior statesman,” he said.

Apandi was also represented by lawyers M Visvanathan and V Sanjay Visvanathan.

Lim published the article “Dangerous fallacy to think Malaysia is on the road to integrity”, which was republished by Malaysiakini.

In his RM10 million suit filed in 2019, Apandi had alleged that Lim’s statement depicted him as someone immoral and unethical, without integrity, and had practised double standards while holding the position of attorney-general.

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