KOTA KINABALU: Residents in seven villages in Sabah’s east coast Tongod region are now closer to the goal of their long legal battle to reclaim their ancestral land following a High Court decision to allow their case to go to trial.
Delivering the ruling in chambers, Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli dismissed an appeal by three companies to strike out the plaintiffs’ claim and fixed trial to begin on Sept 18.
Darinsok Pangiran Apan, 83, Kayah Unto, 22, Wilster Lawrence, 49, Jaafar Dorong, 51, and Jaimon Darinsok, 44, had sued the companies on behalf of themselves and other claimants of native customary right (NCR) land in Tongod, in the Kinabatangan district.
In their suit filed at the High Court on Oct 11, 2002, they named Hap Seng Consolidated Bhd, Asiatic Development Bhd and Tanjung Bahagia Sdn Bhd as defendants.
Other defendants are the state Land and Survey Department director and the Sabah Government.
The three companies had in 2003 applied to strike out the claim on grounds that the High Court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.
Counsel for the plaintiffs Datuk Kong Hong Min said Abdul Rahman dismissed the defendants’ appeal on grounds that, among others, the jurisdiction of the Assistant Collector of Land Revenue was limited to the determination of NCR claims on state land and not alienated land.
Speaking to reporters here yesterday, Kong said the judge also ruled that there was a serious issue to be tried on whether the Land and Survey director and the state government had wrongly and unconstitutionally alienated the land.