Court urges Land and Mines Office to meet Orang Asli over compensation

Lawyer Tan Poh Lai (right) with the Orang Asli plaintiffs outside the High Court in Johor Bahru today. (Bernama pic)

JOHOR BAHRU: The High Court here today urged the state Land and Mines Office to engage in discussions with the Orang Asli Seletar tribe at Kuala Masai to settle compensation due to wrongful acquisition of their land at Stulang Laut.

Lawyer Tan Poh Lai, representing all 51 members of the tribe in the nine-year-old case, told reporters after case management that judge See Mee Chun had encouraged the office in its capacity as respondent to engage in at least one discussion with the Orang Asli before the next mention set for Aug 5.

Tan said the Orang Asli had filed a mandamus application on June 3 for the purposes of settling the compensation in connection with the High Court decision on Sept 22, 2010 favouring them.

The office was represented by lawyer Suhana Sabian in today’s proceedings.

Tan said that since the filing on June 3, no representative of the state government or the Land and Mines Office had contacted the plaintiffs for discussions.

“I hope and appeal to the respondent to have discussions with the plaintiffs so that this matter can be settled out of court,” she said.

Before this, the plaintiffs, who were led by Kelah Lah, 38, and Khalip Bachik, 57, had been successful in their 2008 suit against all three defendants – the Land and Mines director, Johor Baru City Council and the Orang Asli Affairs Department director-general.

In the September 2010 High Court decision, the defendants were ordered to compensate the plaintiffs in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act 1960 as a result of the wrongful acquisition of their land.

It ordered the assessment of damages to be undertaken by the Johor Bahru land administrator.