PUTRAJAYA: Calling a person “stupid and recalcitrant” does not amount to defamation, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
Court of Appeal judge Justice Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus, who chaired a three-man panel, held this in a civil appeal brought forward by Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi (pic) against a politician over the dismissal of Ooi’s defamation suit.
Justice Mohd Hishamudin ruled Thursday that “although it was not nice to use the words”, it did not amount to defamation.
On April 22 last year, Ooi’s defamation suit against Gerakan deputy secretary-general Dr Thor Teong Gee for calling the former “stupid and recalcitrant” at a press conference was dismissed by the Penang High Court.
Justice Mohd Hishamudin, who upheld the High Court’s ruling in an unanimous decision, also ordered Ooi to pay RM10,000 to the defendant in costs.
In the coram were Court of Appeal judges Justice David Wong Dak Wah and Justice Vernon Ong Lam Kiat.
At the outset of court proceedings when queried by Justice Mohd Hishamudin, Ooi’s lawyer R. Ramesh Sivakumar argued that those words were defamatory because they were a personal attack on the credibility of his client.
Ramesh Sivakumar argued that Dr Thor had acted mala fide by using those words.
“He could have used better words. By calling him stupid, he was portrayed as not fit to be an MP,” he added.
However, Dr Thor’s counsel Baljit Singh and V. Amareson were not required to submit in the appeal.
In an immediate response, Dr Thor said he was very grateful for the appellate court’s decision as he had never made a personal attack against Ooi.
“An NGO invited me to give a professional views on medical issues on radiation,” said Dr Thor, who is a Penang-based medical doctor, when contacted.
In her ruling earlier, High Court Judicial Commissioner Nurmala Salim said Ooi had failed to state the alleged defamatory words in the original language, which was in Mandarin, in his statement of claim.
She also held that the words used by the defendant Dr Thor in the press conference were in reference to a radiation issue, and not a personal attack against Ooi.
“I am inclined to concur with the defendant’s (Dr Thor) counsel that the words uttered are commonly used by Malaysians of all races during an argument or when one is angry,” she said in her decision.
She also said the court did not see how the words had sullied Ooi’s reputation and office, as he had earned a bigger majority of votes in the 2013 general election compared with the general election in 2008.
“The plaintiff (Ooi) himself had refused to state how the words had tarnished his office and reputation,” she said, before dismissing the suit and ordering Ooi to pay RM20,000 in costs to Dr Thor.
Ooi sued Dr Thor for defamation for allegedly uttering the words “stupid and recalcitrant” against him in a press conference on May 21, 2010.
He sought aggravated and exemplary damages, a retraction and an apology by Dr Thor, as well as costs and other relief deemed fit by the court.
By M. Mageswari The Star/Asia News Network
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