PUTRAJAYA: Rain or shine, fire or flood, pandemic or not, former Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin’s appeal over a defamation suit filed in 2008 for insinuating that Anwar Ibrahim is a homosexual and a person of low morals will proceed this year.
Court of Appeal judge Lee Swee Seng , who chaired a three-member bench, said the court is sympathetic over the health issues faced by the nation, but “this is the final adjournment”.
He said the case has to be disposed of as soon as possible and no further adjournment will be allowed in the event the lead counsel for Khairy is medically unfit.
“Rain or shine, fire or flood, pandemic or not, a co-counsel has to rise to the occasion,” said Lee, who sat with Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera and Darryl Goon Siew Chye.
The judge made the remark when lawyer Sarah Abishegam asked for the virtual proceeding to be adjourned as lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is ill.
She said the senior lawyer was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and has developed pain in the wrist and shoulder.
Lawyer J Leela, who is assisting Gopal Sri Ram in representing Anwar, said they have no objection to the postponement.
Leela also asked if the same bench could hear the appeal since they would have read the appeal records.
Lee said this is beyond their control and depends on the rostering of the case.
The Court of Appeal registry is conducting case management to fix a new date for the trial.
The appeal was remitted to the Court of Appeal after the Federal Court allowed Khairy’s application on points of law last year.
The ruling by a five-member bench held an appellant needs only file a single notice of appeal arising from two or more decisions.
In 2018, the Court of Appeal affirmed a High Court ruling to award RM150,000 in damages to Anwar after striking out Khairy’s appeal.
The Court of Appeal said Khairy’s notice was “ambiguous and uncertain”.
Khairy had appealed against High Court judge Azizul Azmi Adnan’s decision barring him from amending his statement of defence after the trial began and finding him liable for defamation.
He filed a single notice of appeal to the Court of Appeal, to which Anwar responded that it was defective.
In 2017, Azizul ruled that Khairy’s “main belakang” statement in 2008 had a sexual connotation meant to attack Anwar and dismissed Khairy’s defence of fair comment and qualified privilege.
In the suit, Anwar alleged that Khairy, then Umno Youth vice-chief, had uttered defamatory words against him at a ceramah in Lembah Pantai on Feb 20, 2008.
Anwar claimed that the “main belakang” phrase used by Khairy suggested that he was a homosexual and a person of low morals.