PSM, news portal set aside order to stop debate on migrant workers’ plight

Justice Noor Hayati Mat says the companies had not satisfied the court that the defence was likely bound to fail. (Reuters pic)

SHAH ALAM: Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) and a news portal have managed to set aside a gag order obtained by two construction companies from writing or publishing about the plight of a group of migrant workers who have complained about their employers to the labour authorities.

Shah Alam High Court judge Noor Hayati Mat said Beaks Construction Sdn Bhd and Suria Harmoni Resources Sdn Bhd had failed to give full and frank disclosure of the specific facts that transpired between the parties before the ex parte injunction application.

The judge also said an interim injunction should not be granted if the defendants were to justify the alleged defamatory statements at the trial.

“Based on the factual matrix highlighted in the affidavits, the article published and the Facebook posting were not obviously untruthful,” she said, adding that the companies had not satisfied the court that the defence was likely bound to fail.

The companies had filed a suit, naming MKini Dotcom Sdn Bhd, PSM chairman Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj and its central committee member, Sivaranjani Manickam, as defendants.

In its statement, PSM said it has been helping migrant workers who find themselves in Malaysia without wages and jobs since early this year, although they have signed contracts of employment guaranteeing payment of monthly wages of RM1,500 by their employers.

At the same time, it said, the workers incurred debts in their home countries because they had to pay recruitment fees and related costs to come to Malaysia.

The workers’ passports are also being withheld by their employers, and their movements are restricted. In addition, it said, they are unable to find new employment.

The party said it has assisted the workers to file their claims for unpaid wages, and lodge police reports to have their passports returned.

It said Beaks and Suria Harmoni had, without giving notice to the party and Sivaranjani, filed the defamation suit on March 27.

They were only notified of the suit on April 5, and the injunction obtained on an ex parte basis on April 2.

Four affidavits were filed by Sivaranjani, Jeyakumar and two migrant workers to explain why the injunction should come to a halt.

PSM lead counsel Edmund Bon said the action by Beaks and Suria Harmoni is an attempt to use the court process to silence the voices of the media and human rights defenders.

“This type of suit is now categorised globally as a form of ‘Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation’ (SLAPP), and the courts should be wary about attempts by businesses to stop legitimate grievances from being raised in public,” he said.

Bon also said the setting aside of the injunction is a “resounding victory” for human rights advocates, defenders and vulnerable groups.

“Our clients thank the court and are heartened by today’s court decision. They will continue to fight for the rights of all workers even in the face of personal danger and persecution by those who hold great power and have immense resources.

“Our clients are prepared to expose the facts and evidence at the appropriate time,” he said.

Case management of the suit has been fixed for May 7.

Lawyer K Shanmuga appeared for Mkini Dotcom, and Bon was assisted by Soo Siew Mei, Chan Yen Hui and Lee Yee Woei.


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