THE High Court here today ordered former Penang deputy chief minister II Ramasamy Palanisamy to pay more than RM1 mil in damages for defaming independent preacher Dr Zakir Naik.
This followed Judge Hayatul Akmal Abdul Aziz’s decision to allow two suits by Dr Zakir.
The judge also ordered the defendant (Ramasamy) to pay the said amount to the plaintiff (Dr Zakir) within 30 days from today. The two suits were filed respectively in October and December 2019.
Ramasamy attended court while Dr Zakir joined online proceedings as he was in Nigeria for a talk.
In her judgement, Judge Hayatul Akmal ruled that Dr Zakir had succeeded in discharging his burden of defamation while the evidence of Ramasamy was primarily untenable to negate these two suits against him.
“I take the evidence by Ramasamy in his defence with an abundance of caution. I am unpersuaded by his arguments. It is my considered view that the evidence of Ramasamy is primarily untenable to negate these two suits against him.
“In my considered determination, Dr Zakir has satisfied three essential elements of the tort of defamation. Looking at the background and complete facts of the present case and the demeanour of Ramasamy in the context in which it was issued, five statements are undoubtedly defamatory and were actuated by malice and anger on the part of Ramasamy towards Dr Zakir.
“Those impugned statements were personal attacks angled to disparage, ridicule and lower Dr Zakir in the eyes of the general public, she said.
The damages include RM1 mil for general damages, RM100,000 for compensatory damages, RM100,000 for aggravated damages, and RM250,000 for exemplary damages.
The judge ordered Ramasamy to pay RM70,000 in costs to Dr Zakir.
At the end of today’s proceedings, the judge also ordered Ramasamy to make a public apology to Dr Zakir but Ramasamy’s counsel Razlan Hadri Zulkifli informed the court they would file an application to stay the need for the defendant to apologise to Dr Zakir, pending their appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Dr Zakir filed the first suit against Ramasamy over the politician’s four alleged defamatory statements issued on April 10, 2016; Oct 1, 2017; Aug 11, 2019; and Aug 20, 2019.
In relation to the first purportedly defamatory statement made on April 10, 2016, Ramasamy was alleged to have defamed Dr Zakir through the defendant’s Facebook posting.
The second purportedly defamatory statement was issued on Oct 1, 2017, through the article “Is Malaysia harbouring alleged fugitive Dr Zakir Naik?”, which was published by an online news portal.
The third allegedly defamatory statement was made on Aug 11, 2019 through the article “Naik should not question the loyalty of Hindus in Malaysia”, which was also carried by FMT.
Ramasamy was also alleged to have defamed the plaintiff through a video interview that the defendant gave to India-based media platform India Today on Aug 20, 2019.
Dr Zakir also filed a second suit over the article titled “DAP leader accuses Dr Zakir camp of ‘faking’ Tamil Tigers revival” where the plaintiff claimed that Ramasamy had defamed him through his comments published in The Malaysian Insight on Nov 8, 2019. – Nov 2, 2023
Main photo credit: FMT