KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 9): Local and international groups have called on Sawarak logging company Samling Plywood Sdn Bhd to drop its RM5 million defamation lawsuit against environmental group SAVE Rivers.
This was stated by the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund and The Borneo Project, a global sponsor of Sarawak forest conservation, in a joint statement today.
Samling is suing SAVE Rivers and its directors for allegedly publishing defamatory statements. It is seeking an apology, an injunction stopping the environmental group from reporting community claims and damages totalling RM5 million.
According to Bruno Manser Fund and The Borneo Project, a growing coalition of local and international organisations have argued against the suit which they claim is designed to suppress local advocacy, allowing Samling to continue its logging operations.
“The coalition stands with SAVE Rivers in completely rejecting the defamation claim,” the statement said.
It added that through the #StopTheChop campaign, communities of the Baram and Limbang rivers in Sarawak have been campaigning for more transparency and adequate consultations regarding logging concessions certified under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme for over a year.
According to the statement, the communities had alleged that they had not had adequate access to the social and environmental impact assessments on which logging concessions were based, with several communities also alleging they were not consulted about the concessions prior to their approval.
Community groups have submitted official complaints to the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) dispute resolution committee, which has opened a case to try to resolve the conflicts between Samling and the communities, the statement said.
“That Samling filed its suit 'while the mediation process was already underway, [demonstrated] a lack of good faith and undermining of this non-adversarial avenue to resolving the conflict'.
“Furthermore, this suit was filed after the MTCC initiated a stakeholder discussion between all involved parties. Samling has undermined the process by filing suit, resulting in MTCC withdrawing its invitation to hold any discussion, pending resolution of the suit,” said Bruno Manser Fund and The Borneo Project.
The Edge is trying to reach Samling to get its comments on the allegations against the company.