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‘Mr Tomato’ defamation case back in national court today

Martyn gagged
Martyn Namorong - gagged for last year's national election


NOOSA – The ‘I am not a tomato’ defamation case brought by Papua New Guinea electoral commissioner Patilias Gamato against writer Martyn Namorong returns to the national court in Port Moresby today.

The case began in an unusual way during last year’s PNG election when Gamato complained he was defamed in critical social media posts that likened him to a tomato.

The chaotic PNG election had resulted in wide criticism of his commission’s conduct of polling and counting.

"He made some defamatory statements and also called my surname, which is Gamato, as 'tomato'," the ABC reported Gamato saying about Namorong at a press conference.

"I don't look like a tomato, I'm a human being. He put a big tomato on my head, what if he did that to you?"

Mr Gamato is seeking punitive and aggravated damages for ‘stress, anxiety and loss of reputation’.

National court justice Collin Makail ordered Gamato’s statement of claim be published in newspapers and granted an order restraining Namorong from “further publishing defamatory remarks the blogger made against Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato on Facebook and Twitter”.

Namorong then ceased political commentary for the rest of the election period while publishing a photo of himself in a gagged state.

Gamato’s full statement of claim, signed by Kemno’nga Robin Kawat of Kawat Lawyers, as published in The National newspaper said in part:

“On or about 27 June 2017 in the Defendant wrote or published in his tweeter account by calling the Plaintiff as Mr Tomato, the defendant maliciously wrote and published in his tweeter account and these has gone viral on social media in particular Facebook by tarnishing the surname of the Plaintiff (Gamato) …. He is not a vegetable.”

Martyn Namorong
Martyn in a more relaxed state

At the time former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta criticised the gag order saying, “I have never seen anything written by Martyn that could be called offensive. Humorous, yes. To the point, also yes. That’s why Martyn’s tweets and quips are so popular.”

Namorong’s defence team in the national court today includes Greg Shepherd of Young and Williams Lawyers and Christine Copland of Simpsons Lawyers.

In a message to his many supporters, the noted commentator, writer and anti-corruption activist said: “You should be more worried about PNG’s future than my plight.”


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William Dunlop

Re Gamato. What's the outcome of this malicious court case?

Ross Wilkinson

I commented once before when this first arose that he should have been pleased because tomatoes are also known as "love apples".

As a kiap I was called many names by both black and white residents of PNG. And, like Arthur, whilst batting in the Port Moresby cricket competition I was called a "white bastard" by the opposition wicketkeeper who was of the opposite colour. I told him to "f... off" and at the end of the game we all shook hands and had a good laugh.

Arthur Williams

Gamato should be very red faced with embarrassment over:

The shambles of an election he should have controlled.

The non-payment of many 2017 invoices to valid suppliers of services to election teams.

Possibly some unpaid from 2012 still outstanding too.

The on-off-on local government elections of 2018.

The failure to update common rolls in time for elections.

Printing ballot papers outside PNG.

Of course in USA slang a 'Tomayto' was a good looking woman - or so says Urban Dictionary. In PNG we have 'sik tomato' as slang for leprosy.

As a Provincial Assembly memba i was once called in an official meeting 'white bastard' by a PANGU stalwart and provincial forest minister.

I could of course have shown him my parents' marriage certificate and just ignored the childish name calling. After all, in The Welsh Guards, our training Sergeant often said I was 'an educated bastard'.

Francis Nii

I feel sorry for myself as a writer and commentator.

Daniel Kumbon

I wish Mr Gamato was living here in Enga province. He woold become so used to hearing people describe each other by the most rudest of terms either as jokes or to upset somebody.

He would hear bik ball, nogat het, yu pik, yu dok, kaikai k. or such other names every day. A deranged wife or ex-girlfriend will even call you names such as k..face(just saw one on facebook now). Most people don't mind,others walk away, still others retaliate with choice words of their own. Life goes on.

Its a Goliath vs David case, a shepherd boy against a giant. I would urge Mr Gamato to withdraw the case.

Michael Dom

I must insist that a tomato is a fruit. We are not USA, we are PNG.

Chris Overland

This is a ludicrous case of a thin skinned bureaucrat hopelessly over reacting to a humorous jibe.

I can hardly believe that this case has even got this far. How any judge can sensibly agree that being called a tomato is defamatory is beyond me.

If this occurs it will set the defamation bar so low as to render literally any adverse comment, whether actual or inferred, about anyone, to be defamatory.

During my career as a senior bureaucrat I was at various times seriously defamed as well as being called the full range of Australian vernacular rude names.

If you are in a position of public trust and obliged to make decisions that some people do not like, you are destined to be abused. It goes with the territory.

Just ask a politician or a journalist or a policeman or an ambulance officer or a nurse or a doctor or a teacher, all of whom routinely experience abuse that would presumably have Mr Gamato admitted to hospital with an anxiety attack.

He needs to harden up and take his lumps like anyone else.

Right now, he is using the law to oppress legitimate free speech merely because it offends him. In doing so, he is risking enduring infamy and ridicule which I fervently hope is the result of this case.

Right on Martin!

Mathias Kin

Schram na Martyn....mipla PNG stap wantaim yu.

Lindsay F Bond

That "word vegetable was first recorded in English in the early 15th century…originally applied to all plants”, though lingers in applications where a veget-able enables fruit of choice for those who plant.
See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetable

Come on, pipl, get back to the issue of dearth of moneys to PNG schools and education.

William Dunlop

Hang in their Albert and Martyn.

The whole world is looking at the basket cases that O'Neill and his cohorts have turned themselves into.

Such a shame for the wonderful people of PNG to have to suffer.

Robin Lillicrapp

Hang in there, Martyn.

Albert Schram

What a coincidence. My case is in court as well today: academics and journalists, the usual suspects.

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