Court orders Johor to negotiate with Orang Asli over land acquired in 1993


JOHOR BARU: The High Court here has directed the Johor Land and Mines director to negotiate with a group of Orang Asli over land the state government acquired in 1993, which is 26 years ago.

Justice See Mee Chun made the ruling following case management over a mandamus application filed by the Orang Asli via their lawyer to get the Johor Baru Land and Mines Department to act in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act 1960.

Justice See hoped that the negotiation would be held before the next case management on Aug 5.

A mandamus order is a judicial order compelling a lower court or person to perform a public or statutory duty.

Lawyer Tan Poh Lai, who filed the mandamus application earlier this month, said that not adhering to the application was a serious offence which could lead to imprisonment.

"We just want to have a hearing to negotiate. They only offered us RM5,000 for each family which we do not accept," she said, adding that the offer was made last year.

Tan added that the department is supposed to pay the people appropriate compensation for the land acquired.

The state government was represented by federal counsel Suhana Sabian. Lawyer Gregory Das from the Malaysian Bar 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 2010 judgment, 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 into a shopping centre known as "The Zon" 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 RM500mil.