PETALING JAYA: Any eviction of Orang Asli from their customary land should go through a trial process, the Federal Court ruled today.
In bringing cheer to the Semelai tribe of Bera, the apex court said Orang Asli should not be chased out through summary possession orders.
The landmark ruling effectively ensures that all claims of customary rights shall be ventilated in a writ action or by way of a trial.
The tribespeople, who lived in Kg Lubuk Perah, were evicted after the High Court in Temerloh allowed Elite Agriculture Sdn Bhd, via summary possession, to take over their land in February 2021.
The company claimed the Pahang government had approved 903 acres (365ha) for the purpose of an oil palm plantation. The Semelai tribe, however, claimed they had been there for six generations.
An appellate court set aside the eviction order last September when ruling in the Orang Asli’s favour.
The Federal Court today denied Elite Agriculture’s leave application against the Court of Appeal ruling, saying the company failed to meet proper procedures in taking possession of land with customary rights claim.
Chief Judge of Malaya Azahar Mohamed, who chaired the three-member panel, said Order 89, Rules of Court 2012 – under which the summary possession had been obtained – was not applicable in this case.
He said the Orang Asli’s entry and occupation of the said land were hence lawful.
He also said the issue of customary rights of Orang Asli was a triable issue which could not be decided by mere affidavits alone.
Judges Hasnah Mohammed Hashim and Rhodzariah Bujang also sat with Azahar.
The High Court in Temerloh had allowed summary possession of the land to Elite Agriculture via Order 89, Rules of Court 2012.
Lawyers Selva Balan Sinnan, Hon Kai Ping and Elaine Gan appeared for Tok Batin (village head) Hajemi Din and residents of H.S. (D) 9781, No. PT. 9492, Mukim Bera, while Shafee Abdullah and Tania Sciavetti appeared for the appellants.