Utusan and TV3 file application to disqualify Surendran in Anwar defamation suit

(The Star) – Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd and Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Bhd (TV3) will file an application to disqualify counsel N. Surendran in a defamation suit by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim against them over the Lahad Datu intrusion.

High Court judicial commissioner Rosilah Yop fixed Feb 25 to hear the application to disqualify Surendran as one of the counsels who acted for Anwar.

JC Rosilah set the date after meeting counsel Latheefa Koya who acted for Anwar and counsel Choo Shi Jin for Utusan Melayu and Lim Qi Si for TV3 in chambers yesterday.

Latheefa told reporters that the defendants would file an application to disqualify Surendran on grounds that the latter was PKR vice-president.

She said JC Rosilah also fixed the new trial dates between Apr 14 and 15 and from Apr 21 and 22.

On March 8, Anwar had sued Utusan Melayu and TV3 for RM100mil for allegedly linking him to the intrusion in Lahad Datu.

The PKR leader had named Utusan Melayu, its group editor-in-chief Datuk Abdul Aziz Ishak, TV3, its group managing editor Datuk Shahruddin Abdul Latif and its Buletin Utama news editor Ing Boon Seng as defendants.

In its statement of defence filed on April 12, Utusan Melayu contended that Anwar had not observed Order 18 Rule 12 (1A) of Rules of Court which stated that no party shall quantify any claim for general damages.

Asking the court to dismiss the suit with costs as it was “wrong in law”, Utusan Melayu argued that it had also taken reasonable care in the publication of an article in its newspaper Utusan Malaysia on March 2 and that this was not defamatory of Anwar.

Alternatively, it claimed that it was justified in publishing the article and would rely on qualified privilege and fair comment on a matter of public interest.

In TV3’s statement of defence, it denied that the Buletin Utama programme on March 2 constituted any libel against Anwar, adding that it had exercised responsible journalism.

The programme, said TV3, contained a fair, accurate and contemporaneous report of the issue in Lahad Datu at the material time and was based on reports already available in the public domain.