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KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court today struck out a defamation suit filed by Penang Umno Liaison Committee chairman Datuk Zainal Abidin Osman against Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and three others, ruling that Zainal Abidin had no locus standi (right to bring an action) to commence the suit.
Justice Amelia Tee Hong Geok Abdullah held that Zainal Abidin, named in the writ of summons as Penang Umno Liaison Committee chairman, in line with the provisions of Section 9(c) of the Societies Act 1966, was not authorised to commence the suit on behalf of Penang Umno as he was not the public officer registered by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) for the purpose of suing on behalf of Penang Umno.
She said the court found that Penang Umno was a society and cannot sue under its own name and action should have been commenced by its registered public officer.
"However, it was admitted by PW1 (Zainal Abidin) that he had not been registered as a public officer of the Penang Umno by the Registrar of Societies," she said in her 11-page judgment delivered in chambers.
Justice Amelia said the plaintiff cannot, in the dying minutes, attempt to suggest that he was mounting a representative action.
Justice Amelia said the court noted the absence of any words, whatsoever, to denote that this was a representative action filed by Zainal Abidin on behalf of the other members of Penang Umno.
"In any event, as this court has ruled earlier, representative action cannot be taken in defamatory proceedings. In the circumstances, the court agrees with the preliminary objections as taken by the defendants," she said.
On Oct 24 last year, Zainal Abidin, 52, filed the suit against Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general, Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is sued as the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president, Segmen Fleksibel Sdn Bhd as the publisher of Keadilan Daily and Suara Keadilan, and chief sub-editor Fazallah Pit.
Lim's counsel Karpal Singh had raised a preliminary objection that the suit had not complied with Section 9(c) as the plaintiff Zainal Abidin had not been registered as a public officer of Penang Umno by the ROS, and therefore sought the suit to be struck out. The other three defendants had also adopted Karpal Singh's submissions on the preliminary objection.
In his statement of claim, Zainal Abidin alleged that on July 3 last year, Lim had released a press statement via e-mail and later published it in Keadilan Daily on July 3 and Suara Keadilan on July 5.
Zainal Abidin said Lim's statement, among others, meant that he was purportedly involved in trying to overthrow the Penang chief minister through illegal means as well as concealed his involvement in a demonstration at Komtar and the Penang Bridge on July 1 last year.
He said that on Aug 18 last year, Lim issued another hurtful statement in front a group of journalists, which was published on the news website of The Malaysian Insider on the same day.
Zainal Abidin said, among others, the statements inferred that he planned to sabotage the DAP party premises in Penang and that he was involved in stirring up an attempt to set the premises on fire.
Zainal Abidin sought RM30 million in compensation, interest, costs and other relief deemed appropriate by the court and an injunction to prevent all the defendants from continuing to issue or publish the allegedly defamatory statements.
Lim, in his statement of defence, relied on the defence of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege. -- BERNAMA