Kit Siang to file mega multi-million ringgit defamation suit against Utusan Malaysia next Tuesday

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): I have instructed my lawyers to file a defamation suit against Utusan Malaysia next Tuesday for its news report last Saturday, 13th February 1999, alleging that I am not patriotic.

The Utusan Malaysia report (p. 9) under the headline, "Kit Siang tidak patriotik - PBPM" reads:

Utusan Malaysia’s connections with UMNO are well-known and in alleging that I am not patriotic, Utusan Malaysia has not only made a most defamatory statement against me but is indulging in the most irresponsible form of journalism in the run-up to the general election.

I have discussed with my lawyers the quantum of damage which I should claim.

There were two mega multi-million ringgit defamation suits last week. In one, the son of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Mirzan Mahathir, sued the printers of Asian Wall Street Journal (AWSJ) - Star Papyrus, a subsidiary of Star Publications - for RM150 million for defamation over an article published in the newspaper.

The Konsortium Perkapalan Berhad group executive chairman filed the suit over its Jan 4 front-page article, entitled Mahathir's Eldest Son Limits Ambitions, written by Mr Bruce Knecht.

In his statement of claim, Mirzan said paragraph three of the article meant that he built his business empire not upon his own ability or merit but as a willing beneficiary of nepotism, favouritism and privilege.

He said the article gave the impression that he conducted his business affairs in an incompetent or negligent manner and had only survived because he had exploited his position as the Prime Minister's son and that he was bailed out by the government under the influence of his father.

In the other mega multi-million ringgit defamation suit, Berjaya Group chairman and chief executive Tan Sri Vincent Tan filed a writ of summons against Star Papyrus over another AWSJ article published on Dec 21 last year

The article, entitled Malaysia Props Up Crony Capitalists, was written by local academic K.S. Jomo.

Vincent Tan claimed that the article carried the meaning that he had improperly been awarded a contract to build a monorail system by the government on favourable terms, including the right to develop the Linear City project because he was a crony of the government.

He claimed, among others, that the article also meant that in securing the monorail contract, he knew that, "although it was high risk, if it succeeded he would be able to keep the rewards but that if it failed the government would be ready to pick up the tab".

My lawyers are of the view that in my defamation suit against Utusan Malaysia, I could not possibly be asking for less than what Mirzan or Vincent Tan is asking in their defamation suits.

I do not relish instituting mega multi-million ringgit defamation proceedings. In fact, I have considerable sympathy for the Mingguan Malaysia editorial commentary on Sunday, 14th February 1999 on "KEGILAAN MENYAMAN":

A correction of the Mingguan Malaysia editorial commentary is in order.  The Opposition never started the process of mega multi-million ringgit defamation suits. In fact, the "kegilaan menyaman" mentioned by Mingguan Malaysia has become a culture of the ruling party which set up a panel of lawyers to help UMNO to take legal action against those making "slanderous and wild allegations to discredit party and government leaders".

May be, the only way to restore some sanity from this "kegilaan menyaman" is to democratise such mega multi-million ringgit defamation suits so that the whole nation can sit up and decide whether Malaysia wants to score another dubious world’s first - the world’s highest defamation damages!

My mega multi-million ringgit defamation suit against Utusan Malaysia next Tuesday therefore serves two other purposes apart from redeeming my reputation - to restore free speech and to spotlight the prison conditions in the country which fall far short of minimum international standards.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong