Timber co vs Save Rivers lawsuit: Advocacy group urges collaboration for sustainable future, setting aside past grievances

Nigel Raymond

MIRI, May 17: Licensed timber operators and environmental groups must be committed towards resolving differences amicably and work together to safeguard the environment as well as the interests of local and indigenous communities, urged an advocacy group for sustainable forest management today, an environmental advocacy group said today.

The statement from Advokasi Pribumi Sarawak Sdn Bhd (APS) came following news reports of the court case between a Sarawak timber company and Save Rivers wherein the former is suing the environmental non-government organisation (NGO) for defamation.

Expressing concern over the involvement of the courts, APS executive director Nigel Raymond said they were made to understand that the timber company had made several attempts to amicably resolve the issue by reaching out to Save Rivers to clarify matters.


“This was rejected by the NGO. We had read in a recent statement that the timber company was 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.

Nigel also expressed confusion regarding recent comments made by Save Rivers, claiming that the court’s postponement of the case on May 15, 2023 was an attempt 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.

Questioning the intentions of Save Rivers, Nigel said the NGO has been calling for the timber company 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.

He wondered if Save Rivers truly wanted the court case to proceed or not.

While APS believe that the courts will provide both parties with the opportunity to present information and evidence to support their respective claims, Nigel emphasised that the most ideal way forward was for both the timber company and Save Rivers to reach an amicable solution.

“An open and unending conflict of this nature is counter-productive and could negatively impact the socio-economic fabric of Sarawak,” he stressed.

Noting that the conflict between environmental NGOs and timber companies have been going on for years, Nigel stated that APS fully supports the efforts of NGOs to protect its natural resources and the indigenous communities.

“However, to date, there are no practical solutions put forth by any environmental 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 a negative multiplier effect to Sarawak,” he said.

Highlighting the positive contributions of timber companies to local communities, Nigel mentioned their role in job creation, infrastructure development like roads, culverts and bridges, and the construction of essential amenities like schools and clinics.

Instead of constant conflict, he urged licensed timber operators and environmental groups to set aside past grievances and work together towards a sustainable future.

“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 added. — DayakDaily