Johor govt fails again to remove itself from suit by Orang Asli

Orang Asli Kelah Lah with counsel Gregory Das (right) and other lawyers at the Court of Appeal today.

PUTRAJAYA: The Johor government has failed again to remove itself as a party in a judicial review application filed by a group of Orang Asli from the Seletar tribe to compel the state to compensate them for acquiring their ancestral land about 25 years ago.

The Court of Appeal, however, allowed the application by the Johor Bahru City Council to be excluded in the application.

A three-member bench chaired by Yaacob Md Sam said the Orang Asli failed to show that the local authority had interest over the land.

“The appeal is allowed and the High Court order is set aside,” said Yaacob, who sat with Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah and Azizah Nawawi.

However, Yaacob said the Johor Bahru land administrator and the state Lands and Mines director should be maintained as parties.

“There is no merit in their appeal,” he said.

Last December, High Court judge See Mee Chun said the striking out application by the state and the local authority was procedurally flawed.

She had then allowed the Orang Seletar’s application to also include the Orang Asli Development Department as respondents.

Lawyer Kuna Nadesan represented the local authority, and Johor assistant legal adviser Madihah Zainol appeared for the state. Counsel Gregory Das represented the Orang Asli.

Madihah later told FMT she would seek instruction from the state whether to file an appeal in the Federal Court.

“There is also a likelihood of us applying for a stay of the judicial review proceeding scheduled on July 21 in the Johor Bahru High Court should we decide to go to the apex court,” she said.

Fifty-one plaintiffs led by Kelah Lah are seeking a court order for the land administrator to determine the quantum of compensation.

In 2008, the Orang Asli had taken legal action against the state lands and mines director, the Johor Bahru City Council and the director-general of Orang Asli affairs.

The High Court ruled in 2010 that the Orang Asli should be compensated in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act 1960, and such compensation must be determined by the Johor Bahru land administrator.

The Orang Asli were relocated from the original village in Stulang Laut to Kampung Orang Asli Kuala Masai.

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