The Federal Court has dismissed the appeal by National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp) and its executive chairman, Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail over their defamation suit against Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and PKR.
A three-member bench comprising Federal Court judges Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Hasnah Mohammed Hashim and Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal upheld the decisions of the high court and Court of Appeal in dismissing the suit.
Justice Harmindar, who delivered the court’s decision, said Nurul Izzah and Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, who was sued in his capacity as PKR secretary-general, had made out the defence of justification and they could not be liable for damages for defamation.
He also said the high court held that Nurul Izzah’s statement read in its entirety was not defamatory.
The court ordered NFCorp and Salleh to pay RM50,000 in costs.
NFCorp and Salleh filed the suit on December 4, 2013 against Nurul Izzah, who was then Lembah Pantai MP, and Saifuddin, in relation to their statements over allegations concerning the purchase of eight units of property at KL Eco City.
They claimed that Nurul Izzah had made a slanderous statement on Malaysiakini TV on March 7, 2012.
The high court had, on March 4, 2016, dismissed NFCorp and Salleh’s suit. They also lost their appeal in the Court of Appeal on July 10, 2017.
In the court’s unanimous decision, Justice Harmindar Singh said the Court of Appeal had agreed with the findings of the high court that there was substantial truth in the statement at the press conference, which was on the conflict of interest surrounding Salleh’s wife, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil when she was the MP for Lembah Pantai.
Harmindar said the focus of Nurul Izzah’s press statement was on the perceived injustice done to those squatters by having to make way with scant compensation.
He said the focus was also on whether there was any conflict of interest by Shahrizat, when eight units of condominium were purchased by her own family, including Salleh.
Harmindar said it was the court’s view the real question for determination related to the impression created in the mind of the ordinary and reasonable viewer after viewing the whole press statement.
“In our assessment, such a person will not pay any attention to the alleged defamatory matter complained about, which was in effect one sentence in a very long press statement and instead be focused only on the major part of the press statement concerning the wife of the first plaintiff,” he said.
The judge said one sentence was meant to be an introduction to the main sting – in that it was a revelation by former Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli on the misuse of funds.
He said no action had since been filed by Shahrizat in respect of those allegations, although a suit was filed against Rafizi for the statements he made.
On the defence of justification, Harmindar said Salleh failed to disclose his sources of income to finance the purchase of the condominium units, apart from making a bare assertion, as duly noted by the high court judge.
He said it would not be farfetched to deduce from the entirety of the evidence at the trial, that there had been misuse of public funds for personal gain.
Razlan Hadri Zulkifli and Joshua Kevin represented Nurul Izzah while Muhammad Shafee Abdullah appeared for Salleh and NFCorp.