Court dismisses Khairy’s appeal against Anwar’s defamation suit

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The Court of Appeal has dismissed Khairy Jamaluddin’s appeal to challenge Anwar Ibrahim’s defamation suit filed against him 14 years ago.

A three-member panel, comprising judges Darryl Goon, Ghazali Cha and Lee Swee Seng, unanimously ruled that there is no appealable error that warranted appellate intervention.

Goon, who read out the decision, said Khairy’s impugned statement, in the choice of analogy and figure of speech within the natural and ordinary meaning, is capable of being defamatory to Anwar.

“The learned trial judge has taken the impugned statements in context, including the figure of speech employed, and concluded that the natural and ordinary meaning of the impugned statement by implication and/or inference are both capable of being…defamatory, as set out in his judgment.

“As it has been succinctly described, ‘words, like people, are judged by the company they keep’. The sting is not so much in the words that are used, but what ordinary men will infer from them. The inference that may be borne from the words used is also to be regarded in law as part of the natural and ordinary meaning used.”

Goon, in relation to the damages awarded to Anwar, said the court does not find the reward manifestly excessive.

“We, therefore, find no merit to this appeal, and accordingly dismiss the appeal. The decision of the learned High Court judge is affirmed. We award a sum of RM50,000 to the respondent (Anwar).”

The appellate court also dismissed Khairy’s appeal to amend his statement of defence with regard to the defamation suit.

“We find no appealable error on the part of the judge in the exercise of his discretion to disallow the appellant’s application to re-amend his statement of defence, as it came much too late in the day after the trial concluded for an amendment of the nature sought to be made,” said Goon, who also ordered Khairy to pay Anwar RM10,000 in cost.

Anwar, who is PKR president, sued Khairy, who was then Umno Youth vice-chief, in March 7, 2008, for allegedly uttering defamatory words about him during a speech in Lembah Pantai on February 20 the same year, which led to the post of a clip titled “Anwar and kin no threat” on a news portal.

In September 2017, High Court judge Azizul Azmi Adnan allowed Anwar’s suit against Khairy and found the latter liable for defamation, and therefore ordered the latter to pay RM150,000 in general damages to the former.

The judge also dismissed Khairy’s application to amend his statement of defence to say that his remark was a fair comment.

Khairy then filed an appeal against the ruling, but the appellate court struck it out after allowing Anwar’s application to annul the notice of appeal in February 2018.

The Federal Court allowed Khairy’s appeal for his case to be reheard on its full merits at the Court of Appeal on December 15, 2020.

Counsel Gopal Sri Ram represented Anwar, while counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah represented Khairy.