MO,2/2/2018, KOTA KINABALU: The High Court will decide next month whether the defamation suit by Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri against local newspaper Daily Express can be heard in Sabah. Judge Ravinthran Paramaguru fixed March 1 for ruling and ordered the applicant for the judicial review – lawyer Marcel Jude Joseph – and the three respondents to file in written submissions.
Marcel who was acting on his own accord to apply for the judicial review, had named the Registrar of the High Court of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur as first respondent, Ismail as second respondent, and Messrs Kesavan Advocates and Solicitors as third respondent. “The judge will make a decision after reviewing the written submissions on whether the High Court here has jurisdiction over a matter that was done by the Registrar of High Court of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur,” Marcel told reporters when met outside the court today.
Ismail last year filed the suit against the Sabah-based newspaper over articles published between Jan 24 and Sept 9, 2015, on a controversy surrounding turtle egg dishes served at an Umno function in Beluran. The Umno Supreme Council member filed the lawsuit through Messrs Kesavan, naming Sabah Publishing Sdn Bhd as the first defendant and Daily Express editor James Sarda as the second defendant.
According to a news report, Ismail claimed the articles suggested he was evading responsibility, had no respect for the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1967 and showed disregard for the investigation process. Earlier this year Ismail was reported saying he had instructed his lawyers to pursue the case further after the latest court’s instructions that the case should be heard in Kuala Lumpur and not in Kota Kinabalu.
Marcel in his application for leave said a key factor the courts in Malaysia have to appreciate was that mere publication on the internet does establish jurisdiction but it has to go on to examine whether the defendant has a commercial or business presence, or conducted business in that jurisdiction. “In other words did the Daily Express owners or publishers circulate the newspapers in Peninsular Malaysia and did they depend on such circulation for income or profits?
“Did the said owners and publishers maintain a website or web presence for the purpose of promoting or circulating the newspaper in West Malaysia,” he reasoned.