PETALING JAYA: Miri-based timber company Samling Plywood has criticised a group of civil society organisations for urging it to withdraw its defamation suit against NGO SAVE Rivers and its board.
Samling said it is disappointing that they have sought to stifle its rights to seek appropriate legal remedy without understanding the context that led to the current position.
“Instead of justifying their position in a Malaysian court, SAVE Rivers and those responsible have now resorted to external and overseas pressure tactics to force a withdrawal of the pending claim,” it said in a statement today.
It also denied allegations that its decision to commence action amounted to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP).
Samling said about a year before initiating legal action, it had taken all efforts possible to address and clarify any misunderstanding and misinformation with SAVE Rivers.
These efforts included reaching out to those at the NGO to clarify matters, but it was “flatly refused”.
It also claimed to have engaged with the leaders of the local community and organised a seminar to brief on the forest management certification process under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS).
“Despite that, SAVE Rivers continues to level the same accusations against Samling, seriously harming and tarnishing Samling’s reputation as a result. Samling had no other option but to resort to filing the claim,” it said, adding it only took legal action a day before the expiry of the one-year limitation for defamation suits.
Yesterday, FMT reported that 160 civil society organisations sent a solidarity letter to Samling, one month before the start of the trial scheduled for May 15, to urge it to withdraw its defamation suit against SAVE Rivers and its board of directors.
Simon Siah, counsel for SAVE Rivers, said the United Nations special rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders, and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre have recognised that Samling’s suit may be classified as a SLAPP.
Samling is suing SAVE Rivers for alleged defamatory statements with regards to consultations of local communities under the MTCS. It is seeking an apology, an injunction to stop the NGO from reporting community claims and RM5 million in damages.