If Samling were seeking to advertise to all their western and Japanese buyers just how plain nasty the company is, they could have hardly chosen better than their actions last week.
Using their team of expensive lawyers, they lodged a police report alleging criminal actions by the anti logging campaigners Save Rivers, simply in response to peaceful protests by others against the libel action they are already waging against the NGO.
And so, on Thursday, Peter Kallang and other leading members of the group, which campaigns on the environment and for indigenous rights, found themselves dragged into the police station in Miri.
What were the ‘crimes’ in question? It appears Samling blames Save Rivers for the inconvenient arrival of over 5,700 emails from all over the world into the Samling CEO’s official in-box, which complained about the company’s aggressive suit, which claims the NGO’s complaints about the company’s woeful levels of consultation of native communities (before logging out their lands) is ‘defamatory’.
The multi-billion ringgit company wants Save Rivers to pay RM5 million in alleged damages for the so-called defamation, which is money that Mr Kallang says the NGO and its impoverished indigenous supporters plainly do not have.
International sympathy has therefore swelled behind the Baram based campaigners and it was foreign environmental activists who called on supporters abroad to email the Samling CEO, Lawrence Chia Kee Loong.
This successfully caught Chia’s attention by blocking up his inbox and interfering with his work, but who is he to blame Mr Kallang for the widespread disgust over his own actions?
Perhaps Samling should consider how their years of rampant logging have interfered with the lives and very existence of numerous tribal people for decades and drop their arrogant petulance and strong arm tactics just for once?
Thanks to Samling’s complaint, Save Rivers personnel were questioned under Malaysia’s oppressive Multi-media and Communications Act (Sec 233) which allows a broad leeway to prosecute anyone who annoys the rich and powerful – and also Section 504 of the Penal Code for an alleged ‘intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace’.
Samling’s lawyers added to their offensive by further blaming Save Rivers for their supporters having turned up at an earlier court event in May which was anyway postponed (for the fourth time).
Apparently this was also somehow intimidating to the leaders of the powerful company, although the gathering was peaceful, despite the unbelievable frustration of yet another unexplained and last minute delay for people who had travelled many miles in some instances to be at the court.
The NGO say they were treated politely and professionally by the police who have yet to take action or issue the sort of charges being requested against them by Samling.
However, this crony company has clearly demonstrated that it is tone deaf to the concerns that most of the rest of the world hold about its actions and the way it is prepared to use its wealth and influence to bulldoze and intimidate the people whose lands they have trashed.
Those who are presently reviewing Samling’s credentials in terms of ESG, with regard to certifying their products for markets in the advanced economies, should take notice of these latest tactics along with the background of dirty PR campaigns, documented environmental devastation, devastating court rulings, blatant bribes and unpaid fines that show exactly what sort of company Samling is.
[featured picture shows Peter Kallang and members of his team, together with lawyer Simon Siah, outside the police station where they were brought for questioning thanks to Samling’s thin-skinned complaint].