KUALA LUMPUR: In a landmark ruling, the Kota Baru High Court has given recognition to the rights of the Temiar people over their 9,300ha of customary lands in Pos Belatim, Gua Musang, Kelantan.
Justice Zainal Azman Abdul Aziz ruled in favour of the judicial review against the state government over its plan to alienate the Temiar customary territories to state-owned Ladang Rakyat Development Corporation.
When handing down the decision yesterday, Justice Zainal Azman also ordered the Kelantan state government and the state Land and Mines Department, which were named the respondents, to carry out mapping of the area and gave them a month to do so.
In 2011, the Temiar living in the seven villages of Pos Belatim discovered that their ancestral lands had been contracted out by the state government to the company to be developed into an oil palm plantation on a 99-year lease.
The orang asli community, represented by Rosli Along, Angah Along and Hassan Alang, then filed a judicial review which was thrown out by the High Court in April 2014.
The Court of Appeal ordered a re-trial in November 2014 when the panel ruled that the High Court judge had erred in his decision to throw out the case.
Justice Zainal Azman ruled that there was sufficient proof – based on the applicants’ affidavits and testimony – that the Temiar had resided in the area for a long time, practised their customs on it, and managed the land.
Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) posted on its Facebook page yesterday that based on the existing legal proceedings, Justice Zainal Azman ordered that 9,000ha of settled and planted areas of the Temiar settlement to be granted full title under the National Land Code.
“For the forest areas they used for foraging, hunting and areas regarded as sacred – those lands are now to be gazetted as Orang Asli Reserve.
“The court asked the state to begin surveys within a month, and for it to be completed within six months,” COAC wrote.
Justice Zainal Azman also ordered for costs of RM50,000 to be paid to the plaintiffs. The Temiar were represented by Lim Heng Seng, Dr Yogeswaran Subramaniam, Tan Hooi Ping and M. Rajkumar.