MIRI, 17 May 2023 – Licensed timber operators and environmental groups must be committed towards resolving differences amicably and work together to safeguard the environment as well as the interest of local and indigenous communities, said 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 Samling Timber Malaysia (Samling) and Save Rivers; where by Samling is suing the environmental non-government organisation for defamation.
Nigel Raymond, Executive Director of APS, said, “We are concerned by the turn of events that had led to the involvement of the courts regarding the issue, which revolves around Save Rivers having allegedly made claims that are unsubstantiated against Samling, thus causing damage to the company’s reputation.”
Timber industry’s need to collaborate with other environmental groups
“From what we understand, Samling had tried very hard to resolve the matter amicably by reaching out to Save Rivers to clarify matters on numerous occasions and this was rejected by the NGO. We had read in a recent statement that Samling had been 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.
According to Nigel, APS is baffled by the recent comments made by Save Rivers that the court’s postponement of the case on Monday, 15 May 2023, was an effort 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.
“What’s more perplexing is that Save Rivers has been calling for Samling to withdraw its lawsuit, going as far as inciting support from other foreign and local NGOs by labelling the case as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP. Does Save Rivers intend for the court case to proceed or otherwise?” Nigel questioned.
While APS believe that the courts will provide both parties with the opportunity to present information and evidence to support their respective claims, the most ideal way forward is for both Samling and Save Rivers to come to an amicable solution.
Nigel said, “Naturally, the company has to turn to the courts to clear the air on alleged misinformation that impacted its reputation while the NGO wants to show that it is committed to its cause.
Nevertheless, an open and unending conflict of this nature is counter-productive and can negatively affect the socio-economic fabric of Sarawak,” he added.
Nigel also said that the conflict between environmental NGOs and timber companies have been going on for years. “As an advocacy group that champions sustainable forest management and safeguarding the welfare of indigenous communities, APS fully supports the NGOs efforts to protect our natural resources and the people who live within these areas.”
“However, to date, there are no practical solutions put forth by any environment NGOs that balances the need for socio-economic growth with the preservation and restoration of our natural resources. Calling for an end to all timber operations and attacking companies, policymakers and public agencies that support the timber business may bring about negative multiplier effect to the State,” Nigel commented.
“Timber companies have over the years played a critical role in enriching the lives of local and indigenous communities by providing jobs, building and repairing important infrastructure like roads, culvert and bridges as well as constructing amenities like schools and clinics.
Instead of being in constant conflict, licensed timber operators and environmental groups should leave the past behind and work together towards a more sustainable future,” Nigel added.
“Sarawak is committed to its sustainable forest management agenda and embracing a ‘green’ economy. This is the right time for key stakeholders to collaborate cohesively so as to work out win-win measures for the people, environment and economy,” Nigel concluded.Read more breaking and trending stories from @LatestMalaysia
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