KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 13): Sarawak logging company Samling Plywood Sdn Bhd has defended its RM5 million defamation lawsuit against SAVE Rivers, contending that the allegations made by the environmental group were baseless and defamatory.
In a statement today, Samling refuted the claim made by SAVE Rivers that the certification issued by SIRIM QAS International in favour of the logging company was allegedly done without compliance with due processes and thereby in violation of the rights of the indigenous communities.
"Such allegations not only seriously damaged — and continue to damage — Samling’s reputation and jeopardized its business dealings with third parties, but also undermined the integrity and adequacy of the processes undertaken by MTCC (Malaysian Timber Certification Council) and SIRIM QAS International," the company said.
Samling pointed out that MTCC had on Aug 13, 2020 clarified that the company had indeed satisfactorily fulfilled the requisite certification requirements.
Samling claimed that it had endeavoured to find an amicable solution to the issue by reaching out personally to SAVE Rivers director Peter Kallang long before the commencement of the legal action.
"However, our efforts were not reciprocated. Instead, SAVE Rivers continued to repeat the defamatory allegations," it said.
Samling said it then issued a letter of demand (LoD) to SAVE Rivers for a retraction of the allegations in order to safeguard its interests as well as preserve the integrity of MTCC’s certification processes.
“SAVE Rivers and its team did nothing to correct or remove the SAVE Rivers allegations despite the LoD, hence the [suit] by Samling,” the company said.
Today’s statement by Samling comes after Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fonds and The Borneo Project, a global sponsor of Sarawak forest conservation, on Aug 10 called on Samling to withdraw the suit.
Samling said the allegation by Bruno Manser Fonds that its suit was filed in bad faith in order to disrupt the dispute resolution case was "patently untrue".
"Samling exercised great restraint in this matter by waiting until the one-year statutory limitation period applicable in Sarawak for defamation was about to expire, before filing our defamation suit against SAVE Rivers and its team.
"The date for the filing of the suit was a result of a one-year process undertaken by Samling to find an amicable solution to the issue. It was a culmination of our continuous efforts to reach out to SAVE Rivers — efforts that were rebuffed by Mr Peter Kallang," it added.
Nevertheless, Samling said the company remains true to its commitment to sustainable timber production and has instituted rigorous measures to ensure that all of its forest management units obtain the international endorsed Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme issued by MTCC.
"By working together with state authorities as well as international bodies, Samling Group is confident that its sustainability efforts will not only ensure the future of the Sarawak timber industry, but more importantly, lead to the mutual benefit and well-being of the communities living in Sarawak," it added.