PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court yesterday ordered Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Yong Teck Lee to pay RM600,000 in damages to former Sabah chief minister Tun Harris Salleh for defamation over the “Double Six” tragedy.
Chief Justice Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif who chaired a five-man panel allowed Harris’s appeal to reinstate a High Court decision in finding Yong liable for making the defamatory statement.
The court however found that the one million ringgit damages awarded by the High Court to Harris was excessive and lowered the sum to RM600,000.
The court also awarded an eight percent interest on the damages starting from the date of the high court’s judgment on Feb 29, 2012, and a global sum of RM200,000 for costs.
Harris sued Yong and SAPP for defamation over the “Double Six” tragedy that killed then chief minister Tun Fuad Stephens and 10 others on board a crashed Nomad aircraft on June 6, 1976.
Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop who delivered the unanimous decision held that Yong merely published a statement by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah with some embellishment and did not verify the facts of the allegation.
He said Harris’s appeal was allowed on different grounds compared with the one delivered by then High Court judge Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli (now Court of Appeal judge).
Others on the panel yesterday were Federal Court judges Tan Sri Hasan Lah, Tan Sri Abu Samah Nordin and Tan Sri Aziah Ali.
Harris won his case at the Kota Kinabalu High Court but on appeal by Yong, the Court of Appeal on Nov 18, 2013 reversed the decision.
Justice Abdul Rahman in his decision had then said he found that Yong had “crossed the line” when he insinuated that Harris had “blood on his hands” though, he added, there was nothing wrong for Yong to call for a re-investigation of the air crash.
Harris resorted to the Federal Court and was granted leave to appeal against the appellate court’s decision.
Lawyer Trevor Maringking represented Harris while lawyer Shim Mong Seng, for Yong and SAPP. – Bernama