KOTA KINABALU May 12, 2012: Former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh who was awarded RM1 million damages in February this year by the High Court here in a defamation suit against Datuk Yong Teck Lee, also a former CM, has filed another defamation suit, this time against a Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader Dr Chong Eng Leong.
Harris, who filed the suit at the High Court on Wednesday through his lawyer Abdul Aziz B. Hj. A. H. Tengah, is seeking not less than RM50 million in damages against Chong for allegedly defaming him through a local newspaper article on 17 July last year.
In his statement of claim, Harris said Dr Chong had uttered defamatory words in the Daily Express article under the heading “Harris should clear his name”.
Harris said: “In this article it was stated by the Defendant “A political activist said former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh has been implicated in the book by MD Mutalib entitled ‘IC Projek – Agenda Tersembunyi Mahathir?’
“Dr Chong Eng Leong claimed the book reproduced a letter to the author from Hassnar Ibrahim, who was detained under ISA for involvement in issuance of fraudulent identity cards (ICs), describing how Harris was involved in the issuance of blue ICs to foreigners and the purpose of the exercise.
“The Defendant added ‘I wonder if Harris has read this book?”
“Dr Chong said Hassnar Ibrahim was one of his witnesses in the Likas Election Petition 1999 trial against Datuk Yong Teck Lee and the Election Commission. “Hassnar testified under oath describing how he was involved in this fraudulent act of issuing blue ICs to foreigners in Sabah and how eventually he was arrested under ISA for it.
“He named names who were involved, including Harris similar to what was written in the letter mentioned above.”
“The Defendant stated “Is not this a treasonous act? Once again for the last time I appeal and urge the Federal Government (if you care to listen finally) please do the needful to protect Sabah’s sovereignty within Malaysia as promised when Sabah took part in the formation of Malaysia”.
According to Harris, in their natural and ordinary meaning, the words complained of meant and were understood to mean the following:
- (I) That the Plaintiff has committed a very serious crime of treason punishable by death.
- (ii) That the Plaintiff is involved in fraudulent acts.
- (iii) That the Plaintiff is involved in the issuance of illegal identity cards to foreigners in Sabah.
- (iv) That the Plaintiff is a traitor to the country.
- (v) That the Plaintiff is a disloyal citizen of Malaysia.
- (vi) That the Plaintiff is a criminal.
- (vii) That the Plaintiff is a dishonest politician.
- (viii) That the plaintiff wants a Sabah to be controlled by foreigners.
- (ix) That the Plaintiff committed cheating.
- (x) That the plaintiff is responsible for the population boom and the presence of illegal foreigners in Sabah.
“Further or in the alternative, by way of innuendo the said statements means and/or bore the meaning that the Plaintiff is an irresponsible person and/or untrustworthy politican who did not care about the well being of the people of Sabah by being involved in the issuance of false identity cards to foreigners,” Harris said.
Harris said an article in the Daily Express on the 17.7.2011 under the heading “Harris is ready to testify” stated “he is prepared to testify if a Royal Commission of Inquiry or any other Inquiry for that matter may be set up to investigate allegations of identity cards (ICs) being issued to illegal immigrants in Sabah.
The former Berjaya Chief Minister said he had nothing to hide but to defend fair and just the truth”.
The Plaintiff averred that the Defendant maliciously published and/or caused the said statements to be printed and/or published.
As a result, he said his reputation has been seriously damaged and he suffered considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment.
The statement of claim further said: “Notwithstanding the fact that the Plaintiff has made it clear that the article is false, the Defendant has not offered the Plaintiff any apology or retraction.
“It is the inferred that he had failed to do so because he is indifferent to the truth and do not wish to damage his credibility by apologizing to the Plaintiff.
“In the circumstances, the Defendant knew that the defamatory allegations were false or was indifferent to their truth and decided to publish them having calculated that the political benefit in terms of increased political support for the Defendant outweighed the risk of any damages which might have to be paid to the Plantiff.
“Unless restrained by this Honorable Court, the Defendant will further publish or cause to be published the words complained of or similar words defamatory of the Plaintiff.”