Orang Asli regain access to ancestral land at Gua Musang

Lawyers G Ragumaren (top left) and David Ragumaren celebrate the decision with the Orang Asli outside the Kota Bharu High Court today.

PETALING JAYA: The Temiar Orang Asli in 10 settlements at Pos Simpor, Gua Musang, have scored a major victory against a company for encroaching into their ancestral land.

The High Court in Kota Bharu today struck out the statement of claim by M7 Plantation Bhd and an injunction against Orang Asli “representative” Mustafa Along.

Judicial Commissioner Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh said there was merit in the argument of the Orang Asli and Mustafa to strike out the claim and to discharge the restraining order.

He said the facts pleaded by M7 Plantation in its statement of claim were bare and not particularised.

“M7 has also named Mustafa as the wrong party to their action as he was only a spokesman for the Orang Asli in the settlement,” Wan Ahmad said.

Mustafa is the chairman of Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan.

The judge said he also agreed with the defendant’s lawyer that M7 did not produce any evidence to support its claim that the Kelantan government or its agents gave them a licence to conduct commercial activities, including planting durian trees.

M7 filed an action against the Orang Asli and Mustafa when they blocked the entrance to the land in August last year.

On Nov 26 last year, the High Court gave the company an inter-parte injunction, resulting in the removal of barricades and blockades put by the Orang Asli to stop M7, its employees and other enterprises from entering and clearing the jungle to carry out their activities.

However, in March this year, the defendant filed an application to strike out M7’s suit and injunction on grounds that its action was frivolous, vexatious and abuse of the court process.

Lawyer G Ragumaren, who represented the defendant, said today’s ruling meant that the Orang Asli could now put up barricades or blockades to stop any private enterprise from trespassing the land.

“It’s a real legal victory for the Orang Asli who had been fighting with private enterprises to exploit their land and ecological imbalance,” said the lawyer, who was assisted by David Ragumaren.

The federal government early this year filed a suit – the first by Putrajaya – to protect the native land rights of the Orang Asli.

It named the PAS-led state government, the state director of lands and mines and the state director of the Forestry Department as defendants.

It also named five companies – M7 Plantation Bhd, Precision Sdn Bhd, Koperasi Kijang Mas Negeri Kelantan Bhd, KPG Maju Enterprise Sdn Bhd and Ringgit Saksama (M) Sdn Bhd.

Putrajaya is seeking an injunction to stop private companies from encroaching into native lands to carry out commercial activities, as well as several declarations.

The Kelantan government and its agencies had granted logging licences to the private companies, allowing them to enter the native land of the Temiar Orang Asli at Pos Simpor.

Vast areas of forest were reportedly cleared to make way for durian and rubber trees.

In its statement of claim, Putrajaya said this had deprived the Temiar Orang Asli of their native lands and resources and caused widespread erosion, pollution and irreparable damage to the ecology and landscape of Pos Simpor.

The High Court in Kota Bharu will hear the state government’s application to strike out the suit on July 21.

The Kelantan government argued that Putrajaya had no legal standing to bring the case and that the High Court had no jurisdiction to hear the suit on constitutional grounds.