KUCHING: The Kuching High Court today dismissed an application by the state Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman Chong Chieng Jen to amend his defence involving a civil suit filed by the Sarawak government and State Financial Authority.
Judicial Commissioner Christopher Chin also ordered the Sarawak government and State Financial Authority as well as Chong’s counsel to exchange documents on August 14.
Chin then fixed September 11 for pre-trial case management and trial hearing from Oct 12 to Oct 16, where the Sarawak government and the State Financial Authority will call six witnesses at the hearing.
In 2013, Chong who is Kota Sentosa assemblyman, used the term ‘blackhole’ to insinuate that some RM10 billion had gone missing from the state coffers, where it (allegation) was published in a Chinese national daily, a news portal, and in pamphlets distributed by Chong and the DAP.
As a result, the Sarawak government and the State Financial Authority on April 3, 2013, filed the defamation suit against him at the Kuching High Court for publishing the allegation in the Rocket, Malaysiakini and Sin Chew Jit Poh on Jan 3, 2013.
The Sarawak government said that Chong’s remark meant that it and its Financial Authority, through the budgetary process, had caused billions of ringgit to be siphoned off for the benefit of cronies of members of the government and their families.
Chong then applied to the Kuching High Court to amend his defence on April 26, 2013 after his bid to review the apex court’s decision, which allows the government to sue for defamation, was dismissed by the Federal Court.
The Federal Court in 2018 upheld a majority decision of the Court of Appeal that the words “state budget for the past seven years … some RM10 million mysteriously disappeared into this black hole … and the state does not have money because state money going somewhere else” attributed to Chong by some media houses were capable of a defamatory meaning.
The Kota Sentosa assemblyman was dissatisfied with the Federal Court’s judgement and applied for a review on the ground that the judgement violated Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which guaranteed freedom of speech. However, it was dismissed on February 12 with costs of RM100,000 to be paid to the Sarawak government and State Financial Authority.
State legal counsels Mohamad Adzrul Adzlan and Voon Yan Sin represented the Sarawak government and State Financial Authority while, Chong, represented by Counsels Chong Siew Chiang and Micheal Kong, was defending himself against the defamation suit today.