Licensed timber operators and environmental groups must be committed towards resolving differences amicably and work together to safeguard the environment as well as the interests of local and indigenous communities, urged an advocacy group for sustainable forest management today.
The statement from Advokasi Pribumi Sarawak Sdn Bhd (APS) came following news reports of the court case between a Sarawak timber company [Samling] and Save Rivers wherein the former is suing the environmental NGP for defamation…
Expressing concern over the involvement of the courts, APS executive director Nigel Raymond said they were made to understand that the timber company had made several attempts to amicably resolve the issue by reaching out to Save Rivers to clarify matters.
“This was rejected by the NGO. We had read in a recent statement that the timber company was left with no choice but to file the defamation suit just an hour before the end of the statutory limitation period applicable in Sarawak” said Nigel, who has been following the case closely.
Nigel also expressed confusion regarding recent comments made by Save Rivers, claiming that the court’s postponement of the case on May 15th, 2023 was an attempt to ‘silence’ the NGO.
“From what we understand, this is the first time the court has postponed the hearing, not the fourth as claimed by Save Rivers”, he added…..
… to date, there are no practical solutions put forth by any environmental NGOs that balances the need for socio-economic growth with the preservation and restoration of our natural resources.
“Calling for and end to all timber operations and attacking companies, policymakers and public agencies that support the timber business may bring about a negative multiplier effect to Sarawak”, he said.
Highlighting the positive contributions of timber companies to local communities, Nigel mentioned their role in job creation, infrastructure developments like roads, culverts and bridges, and the construction of essential amenities like schools and clinics…….
This Nigel Raymond seems to have achieved enviable publicity over the past couple of days for this attack on the NGO Save Rivers, presently being sued for libel by the global timber giant, Samling, for championing indigenous communities whose lands are being logged without due process or consultation (let alone compensation).
Likewise, Nigel got a good shout for an earlier attack in March against Save Rivers on behalf of the local YB, Denis Ngau, whom Sarawak Report has likewise questioned over his dubious representation of the interests of his indigenous constituents (many of whom remain without their proper ID cards, the most basic function this YB could have performed, if not so busy supporting logging interests).
However, apart from this recent publicity, Nigel and his NGO seem to have arrived from nowhere. He claims to be a registered company, Advokasi Pribumi Sarawak Sdn Bhd. Yet, when we searched the ROC (Register of Companies) that name does not appear we discovered only an Advokasi Pribumi (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd, based in KL.
Stunningly, this outfit was only incorporated on March 16th of this year, just the day before Nigel made his public utterance as an “advocacy group for sustainable forest management” by condemning Save Rivers on behalf of Denis Ngau.
The outfit has a Facebook page, also launched on March 16th. It has just two friends so far. There are no posts. However, our research has produced an email from this site and we will send our questions there.
There is a website listed online, but if you try to enter it you get a ‘Server Error’ message.
So far there is no evidence to determine what, if any, actual advocacy this ‘NGO’ may have conducted for sustainable forest management in Sarawak.
Meanwhile, we are left to note that the remarks in Nigel Raymond’s statement look more than anything like a ham-fisted concoction of the Samling press department itself, containing a mix of laughable sustainability claims on the part of perhaps the most shamed and notorious timber companies on the planet and downright lies.
So, let’s be clear, according to the lawyers, this is the fourth postponement of the case.
Samling had no need to sue a vulnerable community and their representatives for huge sums of ‘libel’ compensation to stop them protesting at the logging on their land. The community have every right to protest and Samling has now transgressed not only their their native lands but also their freedom of speech.
If, as Nigel claims, the NGO rejected whatever ‘settlement’ Samling has in mind (and its a big if), then Samling had better propose something a lot less self-serving to shut down this case that is now backfiring disastrously with bad publicity across the world. How about serious financial compensation for a start?
Perhaps this big bunch of bullies are finally starting to realise that defamation suits designed to shut people up – known as SLAPP suits – can be massively counter-productive for a Goliath seeking to squash a David by starting expensive legal proceedings?
Thanks to this action, the world if rapidly finding out more and more about Samling and its bullying behaviour, dragging native folk to court instead of engaging in the proper consultations due under the laws of Sarawak.
This legal bullying was badly misjudged, therefore, and Nigel, given he plainly speaks on behalf of Samling, has every reason to be concerned about the involvement of the courts. But, it was the company’s own fault and he would do better to recognise it rather than attacking an NGO that genuinely represents the community it serves.
Meanwhile, unless this ‘NGO director’ contacts us to say otherwise, we are free to assume his media statement was drawn up by the press department of Samling itself and that the timber giant is contributing to his revenues.