RH sues Post-Courier for defamation

Main Stories, National

The National, Friday 11th November 2011

Rimbunan Hijau (PNG) Group is suing the Post-Courier for defamation over the Pomio land situation which involves one of its subsidia­ries, the logging company Gilford Ltd.
A writ of summons was served to the Post-Courier on Tuesday naming South Pacific Post Ltd as the first defendant and reporter John Pangkatana as second defendant
Private lawyer Michael Wilson, of Warner Shand Lawyers, said the newspaper company had already received the court documents.
Warner Shand Lawyers also issued a press statement yesterday 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,” the RH has said through its lawyers, Warner Shand.