Straits Times: Jeya ‘can’t evade overall responsibility for article’

By Ahmad Osman and Walter Fernandez

MR J.B. Jeyaretnam may not be able to read, write or speak Tamil but that does not mean he can evade responsibility for the defamatory remarks in an article in Tamil and published in the Workers’ Party newsletter, argued Senior Counsel Harry Elias yesterday.

It would also be a “sad spectacle” if the secretary-general of the WP and the overall editor of the newsletter did not take responsibility for the contents of his party’s publication, The Hammer.

Mr Elias was representing the 11-member Tamil Language Week organising committee, which is suing Mr Jeyaretnam, Mr A. Balakrishnan, the author of the offending article, and the Workers’ Party for defamation.

Mr Jeyaretnam, who is representing himself, Mr Balakrishnan and the WP in the defamation suit, has declined to be called as a witness and cross-examined.

Addressing Justice Goh Joon Seng at the High Court, Mr Elias noted that the law covering the extent of liability in such cases stated clearly that not only the author but also the editor and proprietor of the publication were responsible and jointly liable for any damages imposed by the court for defamation.

In this case, there was no doubt that Mr Jeyaretnam was the editor of The Hammer because it was stated in the permit issued by the Information and the Arts Ministry.

So, he argued, the Non-Constituency MP was also responsible for the defamation.

This view, he added, was unwittingly supported by Mr Balakrishnan, who, despite claiming he was wholly responsible for the Tamil section, acknowledged in his affidavit that Mr Jeyaretnam was the “general editor”.

Even if Mr Jeyaretnam had appointed sub-editors, he was “vicariously” liable for any article approved by them because of his position as the “general editor”.

Posted in 1997 09. Comments Off on Straits Times: Jeya ‘can’t evade overall responsibility for article’

Straits Times: Workers’ Party ordered to pay costs by tomorrow

THE High Court yesterday ordered the Workers’ Party, its chief J. B. Jeyaretnam and another defendant being sued for allegedly defaming 11 people, to pay S$3,350 in costs by tomorrow if they do not want their defence to be struck off.

The order was made by Ms Mavis Chionh, an assistant registrar, in a chambers hearing ahead of the open court hearing set for 10 days from next Monday.

The defamation suit was filed by the 11 members of the 1995 Tamil Language Week organising committee.

They claimed they were defamed in a Tamil article in the August 1995 issue of the WP’s organ, The Hammer.

The article alleged, among other things, that they organised the Tamil-language event in April 1995 to obtain and curry favour with the Government.

The plaintiffs are suing Mr Jeyaretnam as the editor of The Hammer. The other two defendants are the WP as its publisher, and Mr A. Balakrishnan, a party member who wrote the article.

The plaintiffs asked the court to strike out the defendants’ defence after the latter failed to comply with its orders to pay them the S$3,350 in interlocutory costs arising from their suit.

After the application was heard yesterday, Mr Jeyaretnam said he would appeal. He said: “We did not pay because they asked for it earlier, but they never asked for it again until they said they sent us a fax. We are appealing against the order.”

Asked if he would pay the S$3,350 by tomorrow, he replied: “I think so. Ask Mr Krishnan.” Mr G. Krishnan, a lawyer for the three defendants, was present at yesterday’s hearing of the application.

He confirmed that the money would be paid by tomorrow, so that the trial from Monday could go on.

Mr Liew Teck Huat, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, confirmed the order made yesterday.

Posted in 1997 09. Comments Off on Straits Times: Workers’ Party ordered to pay costs by tomorrow