Athletics: S'pore Athletics official sued for defamation by Soh Rui Yong says remarks justified and fair comment

Singapore Athletics' executive director Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied. PHOTO: SINGAPORE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION

SINGAPORE - Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied, Singapore Athletics' (SA) executive director, on Wednesday (Sept 25) filed his defence against the defamation lawsuit brought about by marathoner Soh Rui Yong.

The Straits Times understands that the official is putting forward the defence that there was justification in his remarks and that they were fair comment.

When contacted, Malik's lawyer, Mahmood Gaznavi said: "Mr Soh has chosen to utilise the court machinery so Mr Malik will similarly utilise the same avenue to respond to him."

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Soh said that he "fundamentally disagrees with his (Malik's) argument" and that he would instruct his lawyers to respond accordingly in the court of law.

Soh, a two-time SEA Games marathon champion, had last month sued Malik in the High Court for losses and damages arising from the latter's alleged defamatory comments made in a Facebook post and remarks on the same post's thread on Aug 17.

The Straits Times understands that an indicative value of $500,000 has been given, but that damages for libel, including aggravated damages, will be left to the court to assess.

Soh's legal letter via his lawyers from Foxwood LLC demanded that Malik issue a public apology for his social media comments, undertake not to publish any further statements that may be defamatory and to compensate Soh for the "injury caused to his professional standing and reputation".

Soh, 28, is also embroiled in a dispute with SA over his non-selection for the Nov 30-Dec 1 SEA Games in the Philippines. On Aug 1, the Singapore National Olympic Council had rejected SA's nomination of Soh for the Games. The national sports association issued a statement regarding the matter a day later. But Soh took issue with the statement and accused SA of defaming him.

On Sept 11, five days after a three-hour meeting between Soh and SA officials to resolve their dispute, the marathoner filed a defamation writ and statement of claim against SA in the High Court. Soh claimed that SA's statement was "false and defamatory" to him and demanded "damages for libel, including aggravated damages" to be assessed by the court. He had also asked SA to issue a public apology in selected media.

An indicative value of $500,000 has also been provided by this lawsuit, and damages for libel, including aggravated damages, will be left to the court to assess.

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