Malaysiakini apologises to Taib, withdraws allegation of bribery

JUSTICE PREVAILS: Lazar speaks to reporters outside the High Court in Kuala Lumpur. — Bernama photo

KUCHING: Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud yesterday received an unqualified apology from online news portal, Malaysiakini and its editor in chief Gan Diong Keng for libellous words published in a series of twelve articles published by Malaysiakini from April 6 to May 3, 2007.

Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud

In a suit filed in May 2007 in the Kuala Lumpur High Court, Taib sought an apology, unspecified amount of damages and injunction against Malaysiakini and Gan, for publishing allegations attributed to the Japan Times, a Japanese newspaper, that the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau had decided that payments made by Japanese shipping companies to a Hong Kong based company, Regent Star, were illegal payments.

Malaysiakini alleged in their articles that these payments were ‘kickbacks’ for Taib for timber exports from Sarawak to Japan.

In a joint statement read in the Kuala Lumpur High Court before Judicial Commissioner Rosilah Yop, signed by the lawyers for Malaysiakini and its editor in chief and the chief minister, Malaysiakini acknowledged that their articles were published based solely on news reports in the Japanese media and they did not verify the truth of what was published in Japan with any authorities or with Taib.

Malaysiakini admitted that the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau had since reversed its decision on the issue of the payments legitimately made by the Japanese firms to the Hong Kong company.

This reversal of the earlier decision “renders the imputation of kickbacks to be wholly unfounded and so without basis”.

Accordingly, Malaysiakini lawyer, Fahri Izzat told the Court that the articles were ‘erroneously published. No such imputation was purposely intended”.

A Malaysiakini’s statement in Court added, “We regret an such unintended insinuations and undertake to refrain from publishing any further news reports or statements about the plaintiff in relation to the issue of kickbacks involving the Japanese shipping companies paid to an off-shore Hong Kong company known as Regent Star.”

“We acknowledge that the articles caused the plaintiff embarrassment, distress and injury to his reputation and apologise for any inconvenience caused to him as a result.

“In keeping with our apology, we shall publish that the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau had subsequently ruled that the sums paid by the Japanese shipping companies were legitimate payments.”

Following the recording of the joint statement and the apology tendered, the judge allowed the action to be discontinued by consent of both parties and all previous orders relating to costs awarded to Taib or to Malaysiakini were ‘vacated’ or rescinded.

Counsels for Taib were Robert Lazar and Yee Mei Ken while Malaysiakini and Gan were represented by defence counsel Fuhri Izzat.

State legal counsel Datuk JC Fong appeared to hold a watching brief for the State Government of Sarawak.

Taib who brought this action to clear his name, has always maintained his complete innocence and that the allegations made were totally untrue and unjust.

In a personal statement made in the State Legislature under Standing Order 22 on May 14, 2007, Taib stated categorically that he was not at all involved in the arrangement made by the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation and the Sarawak Chinese Chambers of Commerce then headed by the late Tan Sri Wee Boon Ping through the agreements signed in 1983 with the Japanese shipping companies relating to securing shipping services for the transportation of timber from Sarawak to Japan. Such services were then ‘controlled’ by the Japanese shipping cartel.

 

YESTERDAY NEWS (Wednesday, 4 Jan)

Taib withdraws defamation suit against Malaysiakini

KUALA LUMPUR: Sarawak Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has withdrawn his defamation suit against Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd and its editor-in-chief Gan Diong Keng, following an apology in court, the Star reports.

High Court judge Justice Rosilah Yop allowed for the matter to be withdrawn after counsel from both parties read their statements in open court Wednesday, with no order as to cost or damages.

The defendant’s statement, read by their counsel Fahri Azzat, said they acknowledged that the 12 articles regarding Taib dated between April 6 and May 3, 2007, had been “erroneously published”.

The articles implied that Taib had been involved in receiving kickbacks for timber extracted from the state.

In his statement, Gan (also known as Steven Gan), said that MKini (publisher of online news portal Malaysiakini) had published those articles based solely on news reports in several Japanese media that was published at the material time.

“We understand that the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau has since reversed its decision on this issue, which renders the imputation of kickbacks to be wholly unfounded and so without basis.

“We acknowledge that the articles caused the plaintiff embarrassment, distress and injury to his reputation and apologise for any inconvenience caused to him as a result,” he said.

He added that in keeping with the apology, Malaysiakini would publish that the Tokyo Regional Taxation bureau had subsequently ruled that the sum paid by the Japanese Shipping Companies had been legitimate.

He also said that “no such imputation had been purposely intended”, and that the articles had been published merely to keep Malaysians abreast of news reports.

“We regret any such unintended insinuations and agree to refrain from publishing any further news reports or statements about the plaintiff in relation to the issue of kickbacks involving the Japanese shipping companies, paid to an off-shore Hong Kong company known as Regent Star,” he said.

After the statement was read out, Taib’s counsel, Robert Lazar, applied to the court to withdraw the suit, which was filed on May 15, 2007.

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