Samling responds to suit against NGO

The following is a statement issued by Samling:

We refer to the report titled “Local, international organisations urge logging company to drop suit against NGO” that appeared on your website on 9th August 2021, regarding the legal suit filed by Samling Plywood (Samling) against the SAVE Rivers organisation.

It is regrettable that your reporters failed to contact Samling for their comments, more so since
the allegations repeated in your article have cast a most negative light on Samling.

Samling contends that the allegations made by SAVE Rivers, published on the website known
as saverivers.org (‘the SAVE Rivers website’) in respect of Samling in several articles are
baseless and defamatory (‘the SAVE Rivers allegations’).

Amongst others, SAVE Rivers alleged that the certification issued by SIRIM QAS International
in favour of Samling was allegedly done without compliance with due processes and thereby
allegedly 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 and SIRIM QAS International.

When the first article published on 23rd June 2020 appeared on the SAVE Rivers website, the
MTCC in a clarification dated 13th August 2020 and titled “Commentary: Processes involved
in Granting Certification Under the MTCS”, had clarified that Samling had indeed
satisfactorily fulfilled the requisite certification requirements.

Notwithstanding MTCC’s clarification, SAVE Rivers persistently repeated their allegations and
made no effort to correct such allegations.

On its part, Samling had endeavoured to find an amicable solution to the issue by reaching
out personally to SAVE Rivers’ director Mr. Peter Kallang long before the commencement of legal action. However, our efforts were not reciprocated.

Instead, SAVE Rivers continued to repeat the defamatory allegations. Under these circumstances, Samling then issued a Letter of Demand (LoD) to SAVE Rivers
and its team for a retraction of the allegations in order to safeguard Samling’s interests as well
as preserve the integrity of MTCC’s certification processes.

When SAVE Rivers and its team requested an extension of time to respond to the demand,
Samling remained conciliatory and acceded to their request. It was at this time that a complaint was supposedly lodged by Bruno Manser Fonds regarding the SAVE Rivers allegation. SAVE Rivers and its team did nothing to correct or remove the SAVE Rivers allegations despite the LoD, hence the action by Samling.

The statement from Bruno Manser Fonds that Samling instituted legal action against SAVE
Rivers despite the initiation of a dispute resolution case by the MTCC is inaccurate, to say the
least.

SAVE Rivers has ample time and opportunity to respond to overtures by Samling and
subsequently to the LoD.

Furthermore, 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. Our suit was filed on 21 June
2021, a mere 2 days before the deadline of 23 June 2021.

The allegation by Bruno Manser Fonds that our suit was filed in bad faith in order to disrupt
the dispute resolution case is patently untrue. 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.

As a major player in the timber industry of Sarawak, Samling Group takes its responsibilities
of ensuring sustainable timber production most seriously. Despite the many obstacles placed
in our path by various western-based NGOs, Samling Group remains true to its commitment
of sustainable timber production and has instituted rigorous measures to ensure that all our
Forest Management Units obtain the international endorsed Malaysian Timber Certification
Scheme issued by the 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.

Having operated in Miri for the last 50 years, Samling is committed to the growth of our
communities. We have contributed immeasurably to community development and
empowerment through the building of roads, bridges, classrooms and health clinics.
We have also provided employment to a large number of men and women from the local
communities, who make up 80 percent of our total workforce in our Baram operations.

Samling is a firm believer in local empowerment. Through the Group’s education endowment
programme, Samling is providing educational opportunities for native communities in the
Baram region. It is our hope that the communities there will be empowered through education
and will be able to engage directly with the Group as we work towards a better future for all
parties.

Meanwhile, as you will appreciate, we will have to reserve all our rights.

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