Shame On Samling For The Ultimate SLAPP Suit Warning

Samling is the mega-logging company that has received concessions to chop down over one million hectares of Sarawak’s once pristine and immensely valuable tropical rainforest over the past four decades, mainly thanks to the decision-making of the present Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Company officers like to boast that in the process the company became the largest single global customer of Caterpillar bulldozers. Think about the level of destruction.

The same company has been proven by Sarawak Report to have gifted at least two North American mansions to the same Governor of Sarawak, but such trades are of course merely the tip of an iceberg of wealth and profit divided amongst the crony elite of the state arising from this plunder and the ensuing orgy of mono-culture plantations again rolled out by Samling.

Locked out of all the benefits and profits from this wanton destruction of the world’s most precious natural heritage have been Sarawak’s indigenous people. They were promised that the battalions of bulldozers invading  their lands would unlock cash and development so they could progress to modern comfortable lives – few are surprised that didn’t happen, which is why the natives of Sarawak have consistently protested against the logging to no avail.

As understood and predicted at the time all the profit has been siphoned out of the country apart from what has funded the lavish lifestyles and businesses of overweight crony politicians, their families and hangers on.

It has been secreted into global investments and ploughed into Samling’s further destructive logging activities across the rest of Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, Africa, South America, Siberia – anywhere where officials can be bribed, vulnerable folk exploited and our remaining environment savaged for cheap cash. Found guilty of such practices by a court in Papua New Guinea, Samling just did a flit – like a cheap crook legging it from a restaurant where they didn’t pay. It’s that sort of company, despite the billions it has made.

Anyone contemplating a purchase from this toxic company therefore stands warned: they are thereby contributing to the vile activities of a climate changing, species extinguishing, human rights abusing menace of global proportions.

And this week those activities took on a new dimension in the form of a vicious legal threat against the very same impoverished victims of their worst excesses, indigenous communities in Sarawak who have dared to exercise their basic right to protest at the invasion and destruction of their lands.

Samling has threatened to take these poor, desperate people to court in the full knowledge that they cannot begin to pay to defend themselves in a court of law, given that they have received nothing from the destruction of their homelands by Samling and others.

In just one recent expose Sarawak Report has revealed how even the paltry compensation determined on behalf of the native communities in return for logging was funnelled into a fund managed by companies owned by the family of Governor Taib, which have yet to produce a dividend or any of the promised development that this so-called ‘Forest Trust’ was supposed to provide.

Forests and rivers which once sustained indigenous communities have been levelled and polluted, and their lands and farms have been taken to grow cash crops for the likes of Samling. It means these people have barely the money to buy rice, let alone to hire slicker city lawyers – and boy do Samling know it.

They also know that the State of Sarawak is there to support the loggers and not the people, who are bribed a few ringgit every five years to vote the same old politicians back in to rob them further. So, why not take legal action to silence the latest inconvenient protests?

The latest case at issue has been detailed in a desperate plea released this week by NGOs who have supported Kenyah and Penan communities of the Baram and Limbang river regions as they have tried over the past year to prevent Samling from moving in and destroying the forest in one of the last remaining corners of the country that they have yet to get their hands on.

In a joint press release The Borneo Project and Bruno Manser Fund sounded an alert over the despicable development after Samling threatened to silence through expensive legal action even that right to protest and to demand that proper legal procedures be followed by the company as it seeks to snatch the timber in its sights.

It is surely the ultimate SLAPP suit (intimidation against freedom of speech using bogus legal action) when a powerful logging company threatens to sue a poor community for lifting their voice in protest to save their lands?

As anyone living in Sarawak knows this outrageous threat has come at a time when these very communities are suffering flooding as one of the many appalling consequences of the careless and excessive logging by Samling in the region:

“As communities in the north of Sarawak are recovering from devastating floods, some of them have also been dealt another blow: legal threats from logging giant Samling. For over a year, Kenyah and Penan communities of the Baram and Limbang rivers have been calling for proper consultations and transparency regarding the Gerenai and Ravenscourt logging concessions, run by subsidiaries of Malaysian timber giant Samling. Instead of fulfilling community requests, the company has instead threatened them with legal action.

According to William Tinggang of Long Moh, one of the communities affected by the threatening letters issued by Samling subsidiaries, “the letters appear to be a blatant attempt to silence communities and human rights defenders voicing concerns about faulty and inadequate certification procedures.” ..

These threats come at a time when villages in Sarawak are reeling from the devastating impacts of abnormal flooding for the second time in a year: “we’re suffering from floods and from COVID right now, and they are threatening legal pressure on top of all of this. They need to take responsibility for their role in all of this,” said Penan leader Komeok Joe, CEO of KERUAN, a Penan support group.

While it has long been understood that deforestation exacerbates both flooding and drought, logging in Sarawak continues largely unabated, at the expense of remote communities that rely on forest resources for their survival. Remote Indigenous communities are now left dealing with legal threats while they start the cleanup and rebuilding process once again.”

Drowned by floods caused by logging and now facing legal action from those logging companies
Drowned by floods caused by logging and now facing legal action from those logging companies

If the State Government of Sarawak had an ounce of responsibility towards the people it pretends to represent it ought to take immediate action to counter this vile abusive threat of legal persecution on their behalf. It won’t, because the politicians are part of the mafia who have captured the resources of the state.

Therefore, it falls to law abiding companies and countries across the globe to boycott Samling and its fellow big six logging companies in Sarawak. No product merchandised by the Yaw family should receive accreditation in a single market that purports to tell its customers they follow ethical, environmental or human rights guidelines of any sort.

Any merchant who does so will open themselves to the danger of utter discredit.

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