Kelantan govt appeals to stop High Court from hearing dispute over Orang Asli land

Lawyers G Ragumaren and Gurdial Singh Nijar (fourth and fifth from left) with a group of Orang Asli at the Kota Bharu High Court on July 21.

PETALING JAYA: The Kelantan government has filed an appeal to reverse the findings of the High Court that it has the authority to hear a suit filed by the federal government on alleged encroachments into Orang Asli settlements in Gua Musang.

Lawyer Khoo Guan Huat said the notice of appeal was filed last week after several options were taken into consideration.

“The state legal adviser’s officer finally decided to appeal against the High Court decision,” said Khoo who, together with former chief justice Salleh Abas, appeared for the state government, the state director of lands and mines, and the director of the state forestry department.

Khoo said they were also awaiting the written grounds of judge Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh before filing the memorandum of appeal.

In the memorandum, an appellant usually lists out where the judge erred in law and fact.

On Aug 20, Wan Ahmad dismissed the state government’s application to strike out Putrajaya’s suit on grounds that it was not a dispute between the state and federal government as it also involved five private companies.

However, the state government maintains that only the Federal Court has the jurisdiction to settle a dispute when it involves two sovereign authorities.

Putrajaya filed the suit in January to protect the native land rights of the Orang Asli.

It also sought an injunction to stop private companies from encroaching into native lands to carry out commercial activities, along with several declarations.

The case involves Fleet Precision Sdn Bhd, Koperasi Kijang Mas Negeri Kelantan Bhd, KPG Maju Enterprise Sdn Bhd, Ringgit Saksama (M) Sdn Bhd and M7 Plantation Bhd.

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

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

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

The state subsequently filed an application to strike out the suit on grounds that Putrajaya has no legal standing to bring the case against it.

Lawyer G Ragumaren, who is appearing for Putrajaya, said Wan Ahmad would hear an injunction application on Sept 25 to stop the agents of the companies from entering the disputed land pending the outcome of the appeal.