KUCHING: Former PKR state information chief Vernon Aji Kedit said yesterday he did not verify the accuracy of a news article from the Dayak Daily news portal because it was written by some senior journalists.
“I would think they would have written accurately,” he said during re-examination by his defence counsel Desmond Kho here.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas is suing Vernon for defamation for having called him (Uggah) a liar and a traitor to the Iban in his post in PKR Sarawak Media WhatsApp account last year.
Vernon used the article to publish his comments under the heading, “Expose Uggah. Not only is he a traitor, he is now officially a liar.”
Naming the journalists from the news portal in court, he said they were respected journalists.
“So, based on my respect for them it goes without saying I would take their word for it.”
In addition, he claimed the article quoted almost verbatim from the Hansard of the State Legislative Assembly.
Vernon also said Uggah in his letter of demand to him had never mentioned whether he had or had not made a statement to the news portal.
He said the article was about an amendment to the State Land Code, something that the Dayaks were closely following.
It included usufructuary right which Uggah did not use in special committee/task force meetings and road shows and in asking for feedback from the public, he said.
“However, when the amendment was tabled in the state legislature, the term usufructuary was introduced.
“This caught the natives by surprise and it became apparent that the plaintiff had changed his tune from the road shows to the actual amendment,” he said.
Vernon claimed the natives felt betrayed by the inconsistency.
“It was my duty as information chief to make a statement on the issue,” he said, adding that he responded by posting his thoughts on the group’s WhatsApp account.
“My response to some calls for discussion was of an academic nature. But when we did, we were threatened with a lawsuit instead.
“Furthermore, the plaintiff demanded RM1 million from me. I do not have that kind of money,” he said, adding that he only has a piece of NCR land inherited from his grandparents in Stambak, Betong which neither his parents or he himself had used.
“This is the very reason I join politics — to defend my NCR land which has been illegally grabbed.”
Later, his defence counsel called a witness, Paul Raja to testify.
Raja, a Bintulu-based lawyer, had been in the State Land Code amendment drafting committee and was involved in its discussion, deliberation and recommendation-making.
High Court judge Ravithran Paramaguru reminded Raja that the trial was about a defamation case and had nothing to do with the work of the committee.
He then adjourned the trial to August 13 this year tentatively for summations by both sides.