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.”
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.”