“Black Hole” trial: A case of choice of words in translation

By Emma Victoria

THE inaccurate translation of an article at the core of the “Black Hole” trial, can result in a sentence becoming a statement rather than an opinion.

The Kuching High Court heard today that one of the phrases in the translated article which stated “Chong said that these agencies are cronies…” should actually have been translated into “Chong said these agencies can be cronies”.

Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen, who is the defendant in the defamation suit, said the choice of just one word can give a different meaning.

Earlier, plaintiff witness Miri court interpreter Ngu Leh Yiing had said that although there were some missing words and inaccuracies in the translation of the newspaper article from Mandarin to English, the key message was the same.

She also acknowledged that the translation which she had verified, had missed out certain sentences and definition.

During cross-examination by Chong, she said certain words might not be translated exactly the same as the Mandarin version due to choice of words but based on her own understanding, the overall message was still the same.

Ngu had verified her colleague’s translation during a day trip to Kuching in August last year.

It was in this article that Chong, who is also Kota Sentosa assemblyman, is said to have made the allegations against the government on the state trust fund.

However, Chong managed to rebut her, saying that missing out the words “can be” gave a different meaning.

The witness then agreed that one of the phrases in the article which stated “Chong said that these agencies are cronies…” should have been translated into “Chong said these agencies can be cronies”.

Ngu also agreed that it would be more of an opinion rather than a statement if the translation had used “can be” instead of “are”.

She also said that based on her understanding, “financial budget” and “financial expenditure” shared the same definition.

Chong is being sued by the Sarawak government and State Financial Authority for allegedly using the term ‘Black Hole’ to insinuate that RM11 billion had gone missing from the state coffers.

His allegation was published in the Rocket, Malaysiakini and Sin Chew Daily as well as pamphlets distributed by Chong and the DAP.

Meanwhile, Chong said the State Attorney-General will be making submissions tomorrow to call more witnesses.

He said in a defamation case, the three main defences were justification, qualified privileges and fair comment.

“We have no issue if they want to call witnesses for justification but not for fair comment or qualified privileges defences. That’s our position as they already know our lines of defence,” he told the reporters outside the court after the trial today.

“Their (plaintiff) case is closed and they have to adduce evidence to rebut defences now before we start our case. Hence, we are rejecting if they want to call more witnesses, except for justifications,” he said.

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