Court dismisses Jamal’s appeal in defamation suit

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The Court of Appeal dismissed Sungai Besar Umno chief Datuk Seri Jamal Md Yunos’s appeal to set aside a High Court decision that held him liable for defaming former Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah.

A three-member bench comprising Justices Datuk Abdul Karim Jalil, Datuk Gunalan Muniandy and Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim, however, allowed his appeal to reduce the quantum of damages of RM300,000 which was previously awarded by the High Court to Maria, to RM150,000.

The court also awarded RM10,000 as costs to Maria, who is now Petaling Jaya MP.

Justice Ahmad Zaidi, who delivered the court’s unanimous decision on Tuesday (March 8), said the court agreed with the High Court judge’s findings that the statements uttered by Jamal would, to a reasonable man, have the effect of lowering Maria’s reputation in the eyes of the society and subject her to hatred.

He said Jamal also failed to show that the High Court judge Datuk Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab was wrong in his ruling that the two statements uttered by Jamal referred to Maria.

Jamal had admitted to making the two statements but denied that the statements referred to Maria or that the statements were defamatory.

Justice Ahmad Zaidi said the appellate court found no merits in Jamal’s appeal on liability.

On the quantum of damages, the Court of Appeal judge said the amount of RM300,000 awarded by the High Court to Maria was manifestly excessive, adding that RM150,000 is a reasonable amount to be awarded to Maria.

Maria sued Jamal for defamation for linking her and Bersih 2.0 with the Daesh militant group.

In her suit filed on Oct 7, 2016, she claimed that Jamal had uttered slanderous words against her and Bersih, which were picked up and published by online, print and electronic media, during a press conference at Putra World Trade Centre on Sept 28, 2016, and later at the Bukit Aman Police headquarters on Oct 4, 2016.

In 2018, the Shah Alam High Court found Jamal liable for defaming Maria and ordered him to pay RM300,000 in damages to Maria prompting him to appeal against that decision to the Court of Appeal.

Lawyers representing Jamal were V Mugunthan and Mohamad Fauzi Abdul Samad while lawyers Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar, Abraham Au and Ngeow Chow Ying appeared for Maria.