THE RIMBUNAN HIJAU company is suing the Post-Courier newspaper for defamation in relation to comments published on the Pomio land situation involving an RH subsidiary, the logging company Gilford Ltd.
A writ of summons has been served on the Post-Courier naming South Pacific Post Ltd as the first defendant and reporter John Pangkatana as second defendant.
Warner Shand Lawyers issued a press statement on Thursday saying:
“We act for Rimbunan Hijau Group … we have issued proceedings for defamation against the Post-Courier for the continuous publication of a statement that the RH Group was in contempt of a court order in relation to the operations at the oil palm project in the Pomio district.
“The purpose of this letter is a similar complaint about the article by Grace Tiden on the front page of the Post-Courier yesterday titled “SABL leases flawed – Women shocked, all agreements defective”.
“We say that the headline is manifestly wrong, presumptive and sub-judice. It is an invention. Nowhere in the report (pages 1 and 5) is there any finding by the commission as to the fact that the SABL is flawed.
“The Commission of Inquiry is still proceeding and has not concluded yet. However, the Post-Courier has chosen to make a finding on its own pre-empting the Commission of Inquiry and the defamation proceedings before the court.
“The Post-Courier has never let the process of the Commission of Inquiry into SABL to take its normal course of event.
“In this regard, the Post-Courier has published more than 15 headlines similarly pre-empting the process of the inquiry and the litigation before the court. There has never been any court order restraining the oil palm project in the Pomio district.
“The Post-Courier, however, has continuously made an allegation that there is such a court order and in this regard a defamation proceeding has been served on the Post-Courier on Tuesday (Nov 8).
“In this case, we note that the Post-Courier was defended by Blake Dawson Lawyers but we are now advised that they are no longer acting.
“What does this mean? Has no other lawyers been appointed? Does it mean that the Post-Courier are acting for themselves or indeed that they have conceded?
“The Post-Courier has subjected the Rimbunan Hijau Group to a trial by media before the court of public opinion. There are a total of about five million hectares of land that are currently alienated under a study undertaken by a professor from the Australian National University.
“The Pomio project is only about 60,000 hectares. Why is Gilford, a subsidiary of Rimbunan Hijau being targeted?
“It is a question that can only be answered by Post-Courier.”
Source: The National, 11 November