KUALA LUMPUR: PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and two others have to pay RM2 million in damages to Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) and its subsidiary Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) over two defamatory articles published in the party's Suara Keadilan newspaper seven years ago.
High Court judge Datuk Su Geok Yiam made the decision after allowing Felda and FGV's appeal to increase the RM70,000 damages and RM10,000 costs awarded by the deputy registrar on Feb 13.
In her judgment, Su found that the RM70,000 award was extraordinarily low, given the harm caused to the company's reputation and listing.
"In my opinion, if the very low amount (RM70,000) is not set aside and substituted with an appropriate sum, it will trivialise the damages on the statutory bodies.
"It will send the wrong message that they too can do the same to other statutory bodies and award for similarly low amount and get away with low damages.
"I wish to emphasise here that the deputy registrar failed to appreciate when the word 'Felda' was used (in the article), it has caused the appellant (Felda and FGV) to suffer financial losses and its shares went down considerably," she said ordering RM25,000 in costs.
The court ordered for Azizah, former PKR vice-president Dr Syed Husin Ali and the writer of the articles, Rusnizam Mahat, who were the respondent, to either pay the amount jointly or separately.
Felda and FGV were represented by lawyers Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun and Nor Emelia Mohd Iszeham while the three defendants were represented by counsel Francis Pereira.
On Oct 17, 2014, the High Court ruled in favour of Felda and its subsidiary following the admission of liability for the two defamatory articles in the PKR newspaper.
On Feb 13, Azizah, Syed Husin and Rusnizam were ordered to pay RM70,000 in damages to Felda and its subsidiary.
The decision was made by deputy registrar Norfauzani Mohd Nordin at the damage assessment procedure.
On Aug 16, 2010, Felda and FGV filed a RM200 million suit against the three respondents claiming that the articles with the heading 'Felda Bankrap' (Felda is bankrupt) and 'Bina Bangunan RM662 juta Hanya Libatkan Tiga Individu' (Building of RM622 million building involves only three individuals)
accompanied by a photograph captioned, 'Kontroversi' (Controversy) published in 2010 had tarnished their image.
They contended that the respondents had intentionally published the articles to destroy the trust and confidence of the Felda settlers for the agency.
On Sept 30, 2014, Suara Keadilan's former editor Dzulkarnain Taib, who was initially named as one of the defendants, tendered an apology to the plaintiffs.
He stated that the articles were erroneous and published by Suara Keadilan to intentionally belittle the plaintiffs and damage their reputation.