Appeal by SAPP, Yong against RM1 million damages granted

Yong (left) shaking hands with his counsel Shim outside the court after the decision by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: The Court of Appeal here yesterday allowed with costs, an appeal by Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and its president Datuk Yong Teck Lee against the High Court’s decision for ordering SAPP and Yong to pay Tan Sri Harris Salleh RM1 million in damages for defamation over the “Double Six” tragedy that killed the then Chief Minister Tun Fuad Stephens and ten others on board a Nomad aircraft which crashed on June 6, 1976.

Justice Datuk Linton Albert, who sat together with Justices Dato’ Anantham Kasinather and Dato’ Seri Zakaria Sam, unanimously allowed the appeal with RM150,000 costs to be paid to the appellant.

In setting aside the order by the High Court, the appellate court also ordered Harris (the respondent), who was former Chief Minister of Sabah, to refund the entire amount which had been paid by the appellant to him.

The three-man panel also said that the amount is to be refunded within two weeks.

On February 29, 2012, High Court judge Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli ordered SAPP and Yong to pay Harris RM1 million in damages for allegedly insinuating that he (Harris) was involved in causing the “Double Six” Tragedy that killed Fuad Stephens and 10 others on board the Sabah Air plane about 37 years ago in Sembulan.

Among others, Abdul Rahman held in his judgment that Yong had “crossed the line” when he insinuated that Harris had “blood on his hand” though, he added, there was nothing wrong for Yong to call for a re-investigation into the air crash.

He also found that the use of the words “crime” and “assassination” by Yong were defamatory to Harris and had provoked speculation that Harris knew in advance that something sinister was going to happen to the aircraft and that he had left Tun Fuad Stephens to die so that he could take over as the chief minister of Sabah.

Harris had filed the suit in 2011 against SAPP and Yong through his counsel Yunof Maringking, claiming general damages, aggravated and exemplary damages of not less than RM50 million from Yong who was named as first defendant and SAPP as the second defendant.

He also sought an injunction to restrain the defendants, whether by themselves or their servants or employee or agents from printing and publishing further, the statements and a similar libel in any form or means.

Yong was represented by counsel Datuk Simon Shim.

Meanwhile, when met outside the court, Yong expressed his happiness and he also said that they had been waiting so long for this.

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