Ex-CM Harris wins suit against author, 4 others

KOTA KINABALU: Former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh won a suit against an author of a book and four others at the High Court here yesterday for some information in the book which alleged him to be a bad person and had abused his power during his tenure as Chief Minister.

Justice Ravinthran Paramaguru ordered the defendants, namely author Dr. Shaari Isa, the brother of the late Tan Sri Syed Kechik Syed Mohamed Albukhary, MPH Group Printing (M) Sdb Bhd, MPH Group Publishing Sdn Bhd and MPH Distributors Sdn Bhd as first, second, third, fourth and fifth, defendants, respectively, to pay a total of RM350,000 to Harris.

In his reserved decision, the judge held that there was no evidence established to justify the accusations.

The court also said among others that it was not fair comment but statements of facts and even if fair comment is established, malice had been proven.

In December 2014, Harris filed the suit and in his writ of summons, Harris was claiming for general damages, aggravated and exemplary damages for libel; interest at a rate of five per cent per annum on all sums awarded to the plaintiff from the date of the publication of the said book on January 1, 2014  until full payment; a permanent injunction to restrain the defendants and/or any of them whether by themselves or their servants and/or employees or agents from printing and publishing further the said book and/or similar libel on the plaintiff in any form or means whatsoever.

He was also seeking a mandatory injunction to compel the third to fifth defendants to forthwith cease selling the said book from all bookstores and online purchase and to take all necessary steps to retract and to remove the said book from all bookstores and to remove the said book from online purchase, costs; and any further or other relief that this honourable court may deem just and fit to grant in the circumstances.

The court had ordered Shaari and Syed Salem to pay RM50,000 and RM100,000, respectively, to Harris.

Meanwhile, the third to fifth defendants were jointly ordered to pay RM100,000 to Harris.

Apart from that, the court also ordered Shaari and Syed Salem to pay costs of RM50,000 while the third, fourth and fifth defendants were also ordered to pay costs of RM50,000 to Harris.

The court further granted the second claim (interest at the rate of five per cent per annum on all sums awarded to the Plaintiff from the date of the publication of the said book on January 1, 2014  until full payment) from the date of judgment.

The court also granted the third claim (a permanent injunction to restrain the Defendants and/or any of them whether by themselves or their servants and/or employee or agents from printing and publishing further the said book and/or similar libel on the Plaintiff in any form or means whatsoever).

Counsels Trevor Maringking and Yunof Maringking represented Harris while counsels Raymond Szetu and Tiong Jia Yi, represented the first and second defendants.

The trial started on August 2016 with Harris as the sole witness while the defendants called five witnesses.

Harris not present at the court yesterday.

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