JOHOR BARU: The High Court here granted leave to proceed with a mandamus hearing to ascertain the value of a plot of land acquired from the orang asli 26 years ago.
A mandamus order is a judicial order compelling a lower court or person to perform a public or statutory duty.
Justice See Mee Chun made the ruling in chambers after the orang asli, through their lawyer Tan Poh Lai, filed a mandamus application to get the Johor Baru Land and Mines Department to act in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act 1960.
The department is also supposed to pay the people appropriate compensation for the land acquisition.
No date has been fixed for the hearing.
The government was represented by federal counsel Noor Farhana Adham. Lawyer Gregory Das from the Malaysian Bar Council was also present.
It was previously reported that 51 orang asli from the Seletar group had so far won two legal cases against the state government after being evicted from their land in 1993.
This came about as the order to compensate them had yet to be fully enforced, although the Johor Land and Mines Department lost the case in the High Court in 2010 and again in the Court of Appeal in 2012.
However, the order was never fully enforced.
Their plight began in 1993 when the state government directed the settlement to relocate from Stulang Laut, where they had been staying for hundreds of years, to Kuala Masai.
The relocation took place in 2003. Two years later, the orang asli took the government to court following a series of events, including the demolition of a church they had built in Kuala Masai.
In the judgment in 2010, High Court judge Justice Zakiah Kassim ruled that the land, where the orang asli community used to reside in Stulang Laut and which had been developed and known as “The Zon”, a shopping centre, belonged to the community.
Zakiah said that since the orang asli had been removed from the land, the state government should compensate them according to market value.
The court also ruled that the act of demolishing the church was unlawful and ordered the orang asli to be compensated accordingly.
To date, only a meagre sum has been paid for the demolition of the chapel.
The land in Stulang, which has been developed for commercial and public housing, is worth tens of millions of ringgit now.
Pasir Gudang MP Abdul Hassan Karim, who was at the civil court together with the 51 orang asli families, said Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Sahruddin Jamal, who oversees land matters, should resolve this long-standing issue.
“The courts have already ruled in the orang asli’s favour.
"There is already an order and I hope the state government will abide by it and settle this matter soon,” he said, adding that he hoped to set an appointment with the Mentri Besar to highlight this matter.
Meanwhile, one of the plaintiffs, Khalip Bachik, 58, who is suffering from stage four colon cancer, said he hoped compensation would come soon.
“I have already gone through four operations.
"I do not have much time and before that I hope to get this compensation for our four children and their grandchildren,” he added.
Khalip, who was diagnosed with the disease four years ago, said he wears a colostomy bag at all times and it was difficult for him to walk and travel long distances.
“However, I will do my best to attend all the court cases and hearings until we get compensated,” he added.